The Time is Now
My life took a huge turn for the better four weeks ago when the Colchester Burnham Library opened up for curb side pick up. In a remarkably easy, and organized fashion, a brown bag of books with my name on it, sat outside on a table, waiting for my arrival. Four months ago, the library was something I took for granted, not any more! Yes, I donate, ( a too small amount I now realize), but not much of my time went into thinking about. The library has just always been part of my world, and in fact the first “friend” I made in Vt. was the elderly librarian at the Winooski library. My late husband Mitch and I moved here and were in a hotel for more than a month waiting to close on our house. Within a week, he was traveling and I was alone. I discovered Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, (a Pint was left each day by housekeeping, a mixed blessing for sure ), and the library. I went to the library almost every day, chatted and got great book recommendations. The library made a tough time manageable. Then just as now, the library was a big part of my mental health. So it was with sadness, but also great admiration that I read the story of Ronald McNair. Nine year old Ronald was a bright, voracious reader in South Carolina during the height of the Jim Crow laws. He was such a regular in the library that the librarian called him her greatest customer. However, her greatest customer was not allowed to check out books. One day, young Ronald made a stand, and in a one child afternoon of protest, standing on the librarian’s desk, Ronald got a library card. His actions caused the librarian to first call his mother and the police, but eventually something in her saw the pure truth, and she went to a back room and printed a card for Ronald. I know this story only because I subscribe to Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings. I am happy to report that there is what appears to be a beautifully illustrated children’s book of this story, though it is currently out of stock.
Also out of stock are most of the books that are listed on many websites to help white America understand what black America has been trying to tell us. One of these books is Between the World and Me, (2015) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is a beautifully written but oh so sobering letter to his son about being black in the United States. It is hard not to feel heavy hearted after reading this book. With so many of us weighed down with anxiety, depression, guilt, worry and a feeling of hopelessness in 2020, the last person I expected a hopeful word from was Coates himself.
In a very recent interview Coates speaks about the hope he feels with the Black Lives Matter protests. It does appear appear this hope may be well founded. Today CNN published a list of changes that have been made in these last few weeks. Weeks! I feel so encouraged and inspired; I am hoping to find ways to carry that inspiration into my own life.
For more than thirty years I have lived in a predominantly white area, dancing and creating, within this insular environment. Recently formed MDC, has a mission of social justice. We have worked and danced for Ibutwa Initiative, and for the Spotlight Vermont scholarship fund. Our world has scaled back, our last performance canceled, with none planned for the foreseeable future. Time at the studio looks very iffy right now as lagging scientifically proven facts and fear of the unknown combine to cause a hesitancy to dance together in small spaces. Adding to the dilemma is my body that has suffered years of injuries and damage.
Shifting my perspective to one of hopefulness has made me realize that I can expand my mission. Perhaps right now the mission might be zoom/outdoor classes of dance stretching with closing quiet meditative cool down, my time donated and participants donating what they can to cause of the day. Perhaps, a company member can assist me in zoom classes for children who cannot afford dance classes. Right now, all I have to give is time, so I will find a way to give it.
I have been asked what will I say if people say why now, how come you didn’t do this before? The answer can be the simple, why not now? I can also honestly say, MDC is new, so this initiative is of course new too. Honesty compels me to say the world of the past few weeks is asking me to examine my own life. This examination has shown me that I can do more. For me, right now, I need to not just donate my money and feel like I have done enough. I have lived this way already...(don’t get me wrong, money is always needed, so everyone please keep being as generous as you can possibly afford). I simply feel the need to do better, to give more of myself. I know I have company members who feel the same way.
So I will join Coates, and allow hope to infuse my life and actions. In just these past few weeks, the world has opened up to change. A greater willingness to examine our lives gives us a unique opportunity to join in and do good. Nothing can be changed if we allow embarrassment and guilt to stop us from action. When we know better, we do better. We know much more than we knew last week. Let’s do better, the time is now.