I am tired.
In the onslaught of violations against life and dignity that metastasize and loom darkly each day, exhaustion sinks into my heart, head, and body. In this place of weariness, I can too easily lose perspective of my place—of our place—in the arc of history.
Our ancestors precede us in the fight for justice. Indeed, they continue to be very much alive for us, as well. In the Gospel, we hear that “God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to God all are alive.” Breathing in the presence of our ancestors is a palpable, powerful, and surprising antidote in today’s world.
In my weariness, I recall one of my ancestors, Anne Braden, a white antiracist woman who organized in a virulently segregated, racist South. In the 1940s, Anne actively chose to dedicate her life to racial justice—fighting the dehumanization and terrorization waged against communities of color. In her work, Anne was surveilled and identified as too radical, but remained tirelessly dedicated to building and supporting a multiracial movement. She was grounded in the long, messy, and difficult work of bold change, and she forged ahead with vision and intent.
“…for to God, all are alive.” Though she died in 2006, Anne Braden’s presence continues to be part of my work and community. Our ancestors are the fuel, inspiration, and drive necessary for maintaining persistence, perspective, and gentleness in the face of overwhelming pain, evil, and violence.
I am tired, and so, I stop to breathe in the continued presence of our ancestors. Their example fills me spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I find a way to get out of bed and continue this transformative and challenging work. In that spirit, I’ll end with a favorite quote from Anne Braden:
“An older, African American leader that I respected highly told me I had to make a choice: be a part of the world of the lynchers or join the Other America—of people from the very beginning of this country who opposed injustice, and especially opposed racism and slavery. [He told me] I could be a part of that—that it existed today and offered me a home to live in…I felt like, well, that’s what I wanna be a part of. And so it was a very real concept to me all my life and still is. It is the present incarnation of the movement for social change in my time, but it’s also the connection with a past and a future. [It’s] like you’re part of a long chain of struggle that was here long before you were here, and it’s gonna be here long after you’re gone. And that gives life a meaning.”
Josie Diebold is a graduate of Canisius College (2009) and a former Jesuit Volunteer (Houston 09-10, Syracuse 10-11). She is currently a PhD student at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work and is also a member of the leadership team for Buffalo, NY’s chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Josie enjoys being an aunt to three awesome kiddos and doing cross fit, in addition to running, swimming, and biking (all very slowly).