United Church of Christ

Standing in the Valley: Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Karen Georgia ThompsonOn the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. at the National Council of Churches’ Unite to End Racism Rally, to remember his legacy and commit to the ongoing work of dismantling racism in America.

Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson – a poet, pastor and our UCC Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations – was there. Here she shares her poetry and, in doing so, provides us with an opportunity to deeply reflect on the history of our nation and our faith, the ways that racism has shaped us as individuals and as a people, and our call to vision a new way forward.

my story | broken sidewalks | complicit | blooming bones

my story

this child of kings and queens
this queen, matriarch
this king, leader
carrying stories in buckets
waters from deep wells
drawn daily
to quench my thirst
for free
a foretaste of glory
I will see

this is my story
this is my song

I am a laborer
in the fields
working the land
with hands numb
fingers calloused
back bent to the sun
no time to weep
children cannot eat tears
this?
this is my land?

this is my story
this is my song

I am a laborer
in the fields
wearing stripes
moving rocks and stones
breaking up fallow ground
chains to my ankles
head bowed low
escaping the whip
punished for aspiring
punished for daring to own
myself as human

this is my story
this is my song

I am a laborer
in the fields
body sold to toil and till
no longer free
told I am worth
less than a horse
more than a mule
talking beast
beaten for thinking
shamed for being me
fighting for purchase on my humanity

this is my story
this is my song

yesterday
was 577 years
today
577 years later
I sing the same story
I sing the same song
wailing for freedom
singing for change
broken bodies
broken promises
577 years of grave injustices
blessed assurance
justice will be mine

this is my story
this is my song

I am a laborer
in the fields
I toil in the heat
sweat on my brow
I smile at the sun
watching the children play
bringing water to pale visitors
I sing
murmuring the discordant beginning
of 577 years

this is my story
this is my song

(c) 2018 by Karen Georgia Thompson.  Reproduced by permission.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.


broken sidewalks

we, inhabitants of time and space
children of lesser gods
brothers and sisters
of light
relatives
of saints and sinners

we, wounded travelers
building magical moving staircases
to fantastical dreams
traumatized healers
mending breaches and fissures

then as now
we rise
then as now
we hear the drum beats of tomorrow
then as now
we chart a future
singing songs
without a score
then is now

we, the transcendent
children of the earth
babies formed from tears
visionaries writing
on the clouds

we, the mystery of life
living as seeds fallen into the cracks
of broken sidewalks
finding soil
pushing deep shattering concrete

then as now
we flourish
then as now
we hold tight to each other
then as now
we chant incantations
weaving strength and hope
into broadcloth of justice
without looms

we, waters flowing free
children of breath
bearers of courage
luminaries of change
marching across broken sidewalks

we, creators of tranquility
children of radiant brilliance
defying obstacles
sidesteppers of defeat
building pathways to our destiny

then as now
we transmogrify
then as now
we swim rivers to generational healing
then as now
we dream afloat
riding flotsam
rearranging shards of broken sidewalks
into sweeping mosaics of freedom

(c) 2018 by Karen Georgia Thompson.  Reproduced by permission.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.


complicit

measure the silence
in beats of compassion
how long before you speak
the world needs your voice
to speak while others weep
silence is for those who sleep.

measure the silence
in the breaths between their screams
how long before you hear
the sounds of hearts breaking
in defeat and despair
silence is for those who don't care.

measure the silence
in the depths of their teardrops
another child dies
in her mother's arms
hunger gnaws at their bellies
no food for miles
silence is for those spewing bile.

measure the silence
in the heart beats of the hopeless
cry because you must
because your soul aches for justice
grasping at peace
no need for despair
silence is for those who won’t hear

measure the silence
in the syllables of repackaged truth
the system is abusive
justice is elusive
scream your truth
run from hate and fear
silence is for those who are living dead

(c) 2018 by Karen Georgia Thompson.  Reproduced by permission.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.


blooming bones

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

valley of dry bones
absent of life
Can these dry bones live?
evidence of wanting
a stockpile of life gone
piled high to the sky
devoid of breath
no purpose
none collecting
none commenting
all watching
these dry bones
none to prophesy

standing in the valley
staring at these bones
their confounded presence
haunting the living
their brittle dryness
glistening in the sun
filtering through leaves
their stark whiteness
contrasting grass
green of trees
fertile earth brown
bodies
no longer flesh and breath
Can these dry bones live?
who will prophesy?

what died
leaving this valley of bones?
the breath
of our humanity?
our will to live love?
disparaging skin
as sin
decrying gender
as inferior
depicting human sexuality
as ungodly
prophesy to the dryness
bringing breath to the slain

who died
leaving this valley of bones?
is this pile of whiteness
African Ancestors long passed?
our black and brown children
prematurely taken
mistaken as threat?
their white bones
in the sun
mocking the glorification of whiteness
undistinguishable
from the bones of bitter oppressors
who will prophesy to these bones?

standing in the valley
staring at these bones
listening to the breadth
of a past forgotten
wishing for the wisdom
of Ancestors crying
bones weeping dryness
tears unseen
as the clouds roll over
the sky opens
speaking into this valley
waters rolling down
bringing a new thing
blowing from the four winds

tear drops
rain drops
waters of hope
splashing dreams and visions
the Mystery
of dust turned mud
pollen from trees
these bones live
from them emerge petals
blooming bones
in the valley
a new generation
watching hope emerge
standing in the valley
staring at these bones
prophesying truth

(c) 2018 by Karen Georgia Thompson.  Reproduced by permission.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.


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