and for a while I wondered if I would ever hear them again.
When shots rang out in an Aurora movie-theater and a Newtown school, I could hear you. I could hear your stifled cries as you buried your children, your lovers, your friends.
When home-made explosives went off in Boston, I could hear you. I could hear as you lost limbs and lives. I could hear your city screaming.
When in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, and Charleston, black bodies collapsed under the weight of systemic prejudice, I could hear you. I could hear the echoes of shots in a park or an empty street. I could hear the pleading of “I can’t breathe.” I could hear your cities burning with riots—the voices of the unheard rising to a fever pitch.
I worried that our song was changing—that the snare drum of our nation’s anthems were being replaced by gunfire—that the song we’ve always sang would burn away during the night—its end not even covered by 24-hour news.
I can hear them singing down in Charleston in a church where nine of our voices were silenced.
I can hear them singing as a woman climbs thirty feet high to tear down a old symbol of treason and hate—an enemy flag waving from the top of a government building—a flag called “stars and bars”—a nickname that juxtaposes stars—floating high and free—with bars—restricting and restraining bars.
I can hear them singing in D.C., in New York, in California that love has won—that no government can dictate limits on love—that Adam can marry Steve—that the marriage that is illegal in this country is not the marriage between two loving and consenting adults but the marriage of your religion to my government.
It was Walt Whitman who declared one hundred years ago: “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear.”
Today, I hear them, too. And it won’t be long until disparate choruses will rise—singing in their harmonies of hate.
But for today, America, I can hear you singing a song of love.
*Adapted from a spoken word piece performed on 6/28/2015 at The Coffee Scene in Fayetteville, NC.