My friend lost her mom today. Not to Covid-19, but to a torturous form of cancer that took her brain long before it claimed her body. I don’t know if there’s a good way to die, but from the stories my friend shared, this experience sounded excruciating. What I imagine as the small blessing that shone through the abyss was that my friend and her siblings and father were all there together for the last several days. And they were at home, surrounding their mom with love.

I learned about her death as I was with my own mom, delivering a key lime pie and homemade cards from my kids for her birthday. I sat, wearing a mask, across the living room from my parents. We don’t usually sit in the living room when it’s just family, but it seemed safer. I was keenly aware of how lucky I am to still have my mom.

I am aware of how lucky I am to have my kids and my husband with me all the time. Sure, it would be lovely to have just a smidge more alone time now and then, but I have no shortage of touch. Someone in my house seems to be hugging me at any given moment. Or holding my hand or sitting in my lap or just leaning on me. I am more grateful for this than I used to be.

I talked with Zoe tonight about the murder of George Floyd. We need to talk more. I need to make sure that what she understands about the racism of Amy Cooper and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor is not just from Instagram, and that she recognizes our responsibility to fight against white supremacist culture. Then I have to talk with Zeke about all this, which is considerably more daunting. Books to the rescue, once again. In the few days and hours since the recent torrent of news about racist cruelty, I’ve also seen a proliferation of resources and actions and ideas for white people who want to be anti-racist and teach their kids to be anti-racist so we might actually have any hope of fixing our fractured society. I read about excellent children’s books on the subject on Embrace Race and The Conscious Kid. And in my emerging efforts to support local bookstores instead of relying on the convenience of Amazon, I ordered some from One More Page. I also prioritized several books I’ve had in my to-read stack for a while—Stamped, White Fragility, and The Fire This Time—and committed to reading them this summer and talking with others about the implications for our lives. There is always more I could be doing, and I know it’s not only up to me. But all of us have to do this work to make a change. Until we do it, Black and Brown people will continue to be victimized at the hands of white people. We cannot stand by and watch. We cannot wait for someone else to step in. As Bernice Johnson Reagon wrote in Ella’s Song, “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

Ella’s Song

Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon 
Sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock 

We who believe in freedom cannot rest 
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes 

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons 
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons 

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people 
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me 

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail 
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale 

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on 
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm 

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me 
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny 

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize 
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives 

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard 
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word 

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes