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Dangerous Times Require ‘Radical Hope’

27 May Posted by in Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on Dangerous Times Require ‘Radical Hope’
Dangerous Times Require ‘Radical Hope’

Almost immediately after the election—which I’ve come to think of as the Zombie Apocalypse—I received an email from novelist Carolina De Robertis. She was inviting authors of all types to write essays (in the form of letters) which would be part of an anthology called Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times. Her goal was to get us to think about hope in different ways and imagine how it might see us through the years to come.

Between the election and the inauguration Carolina assembled essays from more than 30 authors, found a publisher (www.vintagebooks) and by May we were doing readings from the book in rooms full of people who wanted to talk, not just about our writing but about what steps we, as progressive thinkers, could take next. The speediness of that timeline is almost unheard of and it’s a testament to the urgency of our despair. Each writer understood the dire consequences of the mean-spirited votes which had awarded the leadership of the US to such an amoral megalomaniacal and mendacious show boater. It’s really sad when #45 (which is all I’ll call him) makes George Bush look good! Below are some excerpts from my essay/letter which is addressed to my great grandmother, who raised me. I hope you find some Radical Hope for yourselves—we all need it!

“My Dearest Grace A:

You know the story of my younger years: my parents splitting up when I was two years old and how I dropped through the cracks and was sent to live with my paternal grandparents for several years. I have scattered memories of that period but the sharpest is about hope. My parents were supposed to visit me periodically; I have a visceral memory of the wait for my father to pull up in his big car in front of his parents’ house. The moments when my younger self sat expectantly in the parlour, then moved onto the front porch, straining forward like a puppy, remain my way of measuring hope.

Closing my eyes I can still remember that comfortable flutter in my chest—anticipation of seeing his car turn the corner after an 8-hour drive and my father gathering his bulk to emerge in an elegant camel hair coat or stylish Bermuda shorts. The thing I’ve learned about hope is that it’s based in two things: first, anticipation of the remembered and recognized, like the feel of my father’s stubble as I threw my arms around his neck and he kissed me. But hope is also grounded in projected possibilities. Embedded in my childish embrace was also an unconscious imagining of him at my future college graduation or some professional triumph. Even at eight years old I knew enough to hope one day I’d be introducing him to the woman who’d become my life partner. That quality of being both real and imagined makes hope so powerful it’s almost unstoppable.

Suffragette Emmaline Pankhurst coined a slogan in 1903: “Deeds not words.” It’s so simple, yet still essential today, more than a century later. I need a laugh (late night talk show hosts) and camaraderie (like-minded, complaining sisters) as much as anyone who recognizes inequities; but words, whether delivered face-to-face or hurled at us through the Twittersphere, are worthless unless they lead us toward action.

Remembering the hope I had waiting for my father I understand that somewhere inside we are all that expectant kid. The difference now is that as adults we can still feel that hope, but we don’t have to wait. We can get up off the porch and act—go out and create the movement we are hoping for.”

Jewelle Gomez is a writer and activist and the author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel, THE GILDA STORIES from City Lights, now with the new 25th Anniversary edition. Find out more about Jewelle Gomez HERE.


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