Beacons of Hope

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite the darkness.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Recently, I watched the State of the Union address. As President Biden spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the people in the room. Despite the challenges that lie ahead for the 118th Congress, there are subtle signs of progress for people of color. As a Black woman, it was a proud moment to see BIPOC representation in Congress. Kamala Harris is the first Black and Asian-American female Vice President in the history of the United States. Hakeem Jeffries is the first Black Democratic Leader of the House. Reverend Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator in Georgia’s history. There are now approximately 149 women in Congress, 58 of them being women of color (CNN, 2023). These history-makers are standing in their elected positions because of foot soldiers who paved the way for them, hoping against hope. We are here because of their persistence to fight through the darkness of injustice without any guarantee of success.

While watching the State of the Union address and reflecting on how far we have come, it was impossible to ignore the glaring contradiction between calls for unity and the grief on the face of Tyre Nichols’ parents. Tyre Nichols was a 29-year-old father who was murdered by Memphis police officers after a routine traffic stop. Tyre’s life was brutally and viciously taken away by police officers who could not see his humanity. His parents sat in the House Chamber listening to words of hope while their son died from blows of rage. This is the current state of our nation, and it is a painful reminder that we still have work to do.

It’s not easy being optimistic with a divided Congress. Unfortunately, even after 400 years of enslavement, marginalized communities continue to face legislative oppression. The playbook is the same, but the tactics are different. Since they can no longer shackle our bodies, they will attempt to restrict our rights. We are fighting against the ghosts of the past, where Black people were considered three-fifths of a person. But those same people who were called “three-fifths” of a person built a whole White House. No mathematical pun intended. It has been midnight in America for too long, and it is time for the light to spring forth.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite the darkness.” We must be the beacon of hope for a better America. We need to be that light that shines in the darkness. Our actions can make a difference, and we can start with the communities where we live. There is no need to wait for Congress to act. We can act. Congress does not live in our communities. We do.

Never doubt your ability to make a difference in your community. When I think about community, I remember how Jesus fed the five thousand. Yes, there is a reference to community organizing in the scriptures!

According to Matthew 14:14- 21 (NIV):

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus told his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” In other words, they didn’t need to seek outside help to meet their needs. Likewise, we don’t need to wait for Congress to act to meet the needs of our community. We can do it together. We can change laws together. Congress is needed, but it’s only part of the work. We can take our metaphorical five loaves and two fish of resources and provide for an entire community. Remember, we are beacons of hope. We call upon that hope that gave our ancestors the power to rise, to fight on, to keep the faith, to get in good trouble, to march, to protest, to litigate, to run for office, and to use every resource within our power to liberate people from the shackles of injustice.

By Carliss Maddox

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