I’ve felt defeated as of late. Restless and hopeless, wondering what is the point of any of this? Why tell the truth if nothing will happen anyway? Why tell the truth when others will lie and the things that you experienced — the things that happened to you— will be “unsubstantiated” and become in the official record, a figment of your imagination? What do you gain from telling the truth when it is ignored and unheard, when *you* are adjudicated as the problem? And then I reach the apex of hopelessness: nothing’s ever going to change anyway! Sound familiar?
The contours of how I experience hopelessness never change. When I feel hopeless, I don’t pray. I refuse to write. I seek the familiar ways of self comfort (normally in a temporary partner’s arms). I avoid and circle round the problem without ever confronting it or myself. I swallow the despair and let it sink like an anvil, settling in my gut.
And then I remember that my individual story is just a small paragraph, maybe a chapter, in a much larger saga at work. Maybe I will never ever see the results of telling the truth. People will think me a liar, a problem maker — at worst an overly sensitive dramatist. But time and time again, we are being shown that it if often takes more than one person (over years and decades) to make a difference.
I also think of my ancestors when I feel hopeless. Chattel slavery existed here in this land for 246 years. Not the “like members of the household” gentle slavery that you’ve been taught, but brutal, systematic, dehumanizing, rape and torture and all manners of evil slavery.  246 years. Let that sink in. That’s two and a half centuries of cruelty and murder.  That’s longer than the time the United States has been a nation. Yet my very existence here, on my couch, typing this blog post, is evidence — flesh and blood proof– of the hope my ancestors had.
Their hope wasn’t some ethereal feelings of possibility or dumb optimism in the face of real challenges. Their hope was a way of living that allowed them to do what needed to be done in the moment, to continue to put one foot in front of the other day after day, surviving even while knowing that death and destruction would reach them before liberty and with the sure knowledge that they would never see the fruits of their labor.
This Black History Month I’m reminded of Mariame Kaba’s motto that Hope is a Discipline.  In this podcast, Kaba describes hope as a way of living — a way of believing that there is always potential for transformation and change.  I’ve listened to this podcast on repeat during this cycle of hopelessness because she puts into words something that I cannot. (Starting at 37:00).  She says:
Hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope is not an emotion and hope is not optimism. I believe there is always a potential for transformation and change…
I think this grounded hope can be practiced
Hope is a discipline and we have to practice it every single day 
Hope is really believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change.
 If that doesn’t describe Black History in America, I don’t know what does.
As a person of faith, my hope rests not in my own efforts but in the One who sustains all life. The one who sees the entire saga and not just my tiny part:

21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord

And so I continue to write and tell the truth. I continue to live my life, practicing this thing that Mariame Kaba has taught me is called hope as a discipline. Walking in these potentialities where transformation takes place. Understanding that I may never know the end results of my labors on this earth, yet doing them anyway.  I continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that things can change. And that we, insignificant, temporal humans, are the vehicles through which such change happens.

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