Lighting A Path to Your Dreams
Dr. Brenda M. Greene
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer” (Hurston 21). Such is life. Why has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic invaded our homes, our communities, our world? When will this global health crisis end? We don’t have the answers, but we should not despair. COVID-19 provides a time for a pause, a time to reflect on how we can transform our lives and the lives of others.
Our writers, artists and musicians have always been at the forefront of providing us with ways to cope when we feel all is out of control. These are the people who provide me with comfort and sustain my spirit on my journey through life. Poets, fiction writers, essayists, screenwriters, playwrights, hip hop artists and performance artists pen lyrics and prose. Jazz musicians, poets who do not use words, compose on the drum, trumpet, keyboard, saxophone, flute, clarinet and a variety of string instruments. Visual artists create paintings, photographs, lithographs and sculptures. The creative words and actions of our literary and cultural artists provide inspiration and motivate our inner light. We have an opportunity to embrace this inner
light, to use it as a catalyst for engaging in activities that will help us to realize our dreams. We cannot and should not succumb to having our dreams deferred.
In her book, We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light In A Time of Darkness, Alice Walker provides meditations for how we persist and survive. The brilliant, feminist and activist poet June Jordan penned the lines: “we are the ones we have been waiting for” in a “Poem for South African Women”. This poem was in commemoration of the 40,000 women and children who on August 9, 1956, presented themselves in bodily protest against the “dompass” in the capital of apartheid. During apartheid, Black people were forced to carry a “dompass” while travelling outside of their homelands or face being arrested. Sweet Honey in the Rock, the powerful and socially-conscious performance ensemble of Black women singers, turned these words into a song. President Barack Obama ended many of his speeches with the words “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. Our cultural and historical legacy is built on a tradition of those who persisted and survived in the midst of what would be called insurmountable odds, those who realized that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”.
Our literary and cultural artists light the path for using creative expression to survive what appear to be indomitable challenges. They use their creativity to stir our imagination, express our spirituality and convey our perceptions of the world. They bestow us with enlightened alternatives for how we negotiate and manage our lives. They ponder the deeper meaning of life and serve as our griots, seers, visionaries and voices of conscience in the universe. And they provide a political, intellectual, and global lens by which to advocate for and pursue social justice. As we work through this global health crisis, let us individually be motivated by the legacy and actions of our literary and cultural artists. Let us find the inner light in a time of darkness.
The sounds in African-American jazz saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan explode, pierce and soothe our consciousness. Through varying degrees of improvisation, Pharaoh Sanders transports you to a world that conveys the dissonance and harmony we encounter in our spiritual life. The Creator may want “peace and happiness in all the land”, but the reality is different. As the polyphonic sounds and tones in The Creator Has a Master Plan remind us, life is difficult and complicated with mountains and valleys. We certainly are not in control of the Master Plan, but we can find ways to light our path and stay in the light.
Look to our literary and cultural artists for sustenance. Share, reflect and meditate on their messages and creative ponderings. Contemplate your own ways to find the inner light. Connect with your family, friends, and community. When we consciously reflect on the inner light in this time of impermanence in our lives, we draw upon the energy and spirit that will enable us to light a path for ourselves and others.
Be well and safe. Peace and blessings to you and your loved ones.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.
Jordan, June. “Poem for South African Woman.”
http://www.junejordan.net/poem-for-south-african-women. Accessed 26 March 2020.
Walker, Alice. We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For; Inner Light In A Time of Darkness.
New York: The New Press, 2006.
Dr. Brenda M. Greene is professor of English and the founder and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.
Your Center for Literature
Founded in 2002 and spearheaded by Brenda M. Greene, Ph.D., the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, builds on the tradition and legacy of the National Black Writers Conference that began in 1986.
The Center serves as a voice, mecca, and resource for Black writers and the general public to study the literature of people from the African Diaspora.
It is the only Center devoted to this in the country.