The Dream

  1. Part 1

Dear Christina,

It’s important that you know how we got to this place. You may wonder, especially, why my generation didn’t do more to protect you. So much has happened; so much has been hidden.

Perhaps we let down our guard.

There were times when we imagined some jujitsu was possible. We wanted to believe there was some arsenal of magic moves that would flip the lies about who were were on their heads, would help us see our ways to becoming whole, would let us each stand or fall on our own merit – not as exemplars or exceptions to a race despised. But the tools we hoped would deepen our trust too often made the distrust stronger. And the knowledge we wished to share was too often ignored or derided.

And when we folded in upon ourselves, we found our internal spaces denuded – strip-mined by those seeking plunder and control at scale.

Still, Sister Sonia sang,

“But we held out our eyes, delirious with grace…”

And Sweet Honey told us to “stay on the battlefield…”

What choice, after all, did we have? Where was there, at long last, to flee? Since our forbears were dragged here, every generation has fled to somewhere where the knowledge passed on by the generation before was unavailing, forcing us to improvise on stages never meant for us. The lighting was always too harsh, the makeup garish, the sound system was always calibrated to some other vocal register. They loved our culture, it was said, but they didn’t love us.

This is why we still read Zora, to remind us that, “Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more of less.”

And despite all that has happened, and will happen, I still believe we are strongest when we hold on to the truth and lead with love.



I Shall Sing a Song of Home, and the Song Shall Make it So

Note: There was a time when I tried to write fiction. It’s not something I am good at. But this is a fragment I’ve held on to that has been on my mind. I wrote it in 1991. It was inspired by some anxiety about events of that day, and by  remarks I once read by former Bell Laboratories executive Robert Lucky on the concept of telepresence – the idea that we can use computing and telecommunications technologies to experience the world remotely. (Think of The Matrix.) I worked at Bell Labs during the 1980s, and occasionally interacted with him. In his remarks, Bob posed the question, if we are in one physical location and our sensory experiences are taking place elsewhere and being relayed back to us, where is our consciousness? That question led me to think about a dystopic novel about a society in which telepresence is used to create a dictatorship that masquerades as a democracy. This is the epilogue. Perhaps I will return to it as a retirement project. 

July 16, 2041

Dear Christina,

I’d always expected that I would write you this letter, that some day it would be time to set down and account of days when people thought that freedom was in our reach. I know that in writing to you, I commit a dangerous act – to possess a document which contradicts the official history of the so-called Marginal Rebellions of the latter half of the 20th century  has been a felony since the dawn of the 21st. The mere private possession of written material is enough to make you a suspect — I know that you have not been assigned a job which authorized you to learn to read. What lengths your parents and I had to go to hide your literacy when you were young!

Believe me, if this was not important, I would not subject my grandchild to such risks. It is only because I was such a young, inconsequential participant in our movement that I was not subjected to the intensive “reacculturation” or “sterilization” processes that so many others were forced to endure. Actually, I’m not completely proud of the way in which I escaped that fate. It took a great deal of deception — but that is something I will explain later.

It is enough to say, for the moment, that there was a time when small people, such as myself, thought that we could shape the world in our own image. I know that will shock and amuse you, having been taught that the world has been shaped by the thoughts and deeds of the Great Men. But I think that the conditions are emerging which may permit the revival of such dreams, and I see in your heart one who may have the courage.

There are many little and big things to tell and there is much that is past telling, the old slaves used to say. Some of them are personal things which may seem unrelated to larger events, but in the era of which I speak, we used to say, “The personal is political.”

I am afraid that much of what I have to relate my seem far-fetched, given what you have been taught, but trust me, even at my advanced age and infirmity, I know my mind. And I know that somewhere, despite the successive decades of “alternate constructive programming,” there are still people with souls who dream of home. What is needed is to turn the story of those dreams into a song – you know the original Australian people believed that all reality is created by singing it into being. May you, my dear, discover the song inside of you – before it is too late for all of us.

Love, Gran

Part 2: The Dream