Check out this celebration dance video, the “poyoyo”:
Neighbors, how can we leap across this sad divide? Too many barriers have been meticulously constructed to keep us separate – if not by us in every instance, at least by history: the cutting words that sliced our pride the thrust of our rejoinders that went deep, surface smiles and habit handshakes, memories of ancestral cruelty and strict avoidance of transparency. Now an excruciating moment holds us riveted before a vision of “perhaps,” drawn in black and white but etched in gold. I find I cannot breathe for aching to step on the scene with you, those pushed aside, to join the dance depicted there. You’re holding out your hearts. Wary, anxious as it is, I offer mine. We share the journey to forgiveness, understanding. And grace is lacing my steps into yours. I catch my breath again-- see! We are tentatively moving to a beat we’d never heard before we joined this learning curve: blended you and me!
One of the things I miss most about the church community in Nyarafololand where we served for so long is the power of joining in the dance. At the all-night holiday celebrations there are hours of counter-clockwise circle dancing; at Sunday services when the drums or balaphones begin to call out a song, someone will take the lead and go to the space in front of the benches to begin the circle, others dancing their way forward to follow the pattern that best fits the song: meditation, unity, celebration, or working in community to reap the harvest.
It takes fortitude to dance in the night as the dust rises from pounding feet. It demands commitment to join the rhythmic group dynamic, a sharing of the space and message.
There, as well as here, there are ethnic and racial prejudices. There are those who maintain that their ethnic music is higher quality that that of the marginalized peoples. There are even some who, not understanding the redeemed meaning of believers’ worshipful dancing, have in the past pushed back against it. But with time and sharing, understanding and mutual acceptance has grown.
I see this as a picture of what desperately needs to happen here in the United States to heal the hurts caused by racism. Whether we feel ourselves personally guilty or not, the consequences of social inequity and marginalization (not to forget the outright suspicion of people who are black or brown) continue to infect our nation. It is indeed a pandemic.
Healing will require conciliation. This can happen through purposeful discussion processes that improve communication and help parties to work together toward mutually acceptable outcomes. In the Christian context it involves speaking truth in love, being quick to listen and slow to speak or become angry, and intentionally reaching past the distances caused by exclusive housing patterns. It means actually spending time together to build healthy relationships.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to dance together with one great purpose?
P.S. Check out Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison, and the Facebook page “Be the Bridge.” There is so much to learn and practice.