I heard a podcast today about William and Ellen Craft. (Listen here).
William was born into slavery in Macon, GA. His parents and his sister were sold away from him so that his owner could raise more money for cotton. When this business failed, the bank seized William and sold him to another man.
Ellen was also enslaved, the child of an enslaved mother and a man who was both her father and owner. She was so fair that guests often mistook her as a daughter -and not slave-of the house. She was sent to Macon as a wedding gift to her older half-sister.
In the middle of slavery –a system that alchemied their very inalieanable selves into property—they found each other. They found each other in the middle of unceasing brutality and horror, in the middle of a nightmare set in the land of the American dream. In a corrupt system that robbed them of their language and homeland, their familial bonds and labor, that took their very children from the womb and the nursing breast, they found each other. And they loved each other.
Loved each other enough to jump the broom and marry, knowing that they could be sold away from each other at the whim or luck of their owner, knowing that their children would share their skin and their fates, knowing that black folks had no rights that the white man was bound to respect. They loved each other and they made a daring plan to escape using the oft-mistaken Whiteness of Ellen’s body and their unrecognized intelligence.
And escape they did.
This story gave me something more than hope on this rainy inaugural day because it reminded me of a very important fact:
There has been a revolution underfoot and underway since the first Native American was murdered for her land, since the first stolen African was made to work that very same land. Throughout our history on this continent, people like William and Ellen have made daring plans, have dared to escape, have declared their humanity in the face of murderous oppression, and above all, have loved each other deeply. These everyday folks have loved not just each other, but their country enough to demand that it recognize their humanity, that it live up to its ideas and that it become the country that it purports itself to be.
Love is a truly revolutionary act. Perhaps it is the most revolutionary of all acts.
So let us continue to resist injustice and oppression where it finds us. But like the everyday folk and revolutionaries before is, let us love each other while we do so. Let us jump the broom and marry. Let us sing and do art and dance salsa in the wavering moonlight. Let us lose ourselves in laughter and lingering embraces between our marches in the street. Let us read books that spark us to something more. Let us spend hours plotting by firelight and years serving the very least of us.
Let us continue to resort to revolutionary love in our unending pursuit of justice.