reflections: no justice, no peace

lodged in between two worlds. one i have seen with regularity & the other is beyond this pale of current affairs. these worlds sit opposite one another. they frequent the same spaces i find myself, but they never come together. i find myself to be painfully blissful to never have noticed their preeminence until now or notice how much is at stake in coming to terms with what they are. what’s even more remarkable to me, is how long i’ve been pulled back & forth by these worlds. i’ve been asked to choose & no longer masquerade in between & i am also realizing that, choice between the two is given to us all.

on one hand, i have been witness to this world of peace seeking. peace offerings seek to smooth the divide & move past it. peace is where a lot of us want to be – with ourselves & with others in the world. to be at peace is to have seemingly quieted a fierce, unceasing storm. i suppose what really entices me to be peace oriented, is the messaging behind its ambition. we’re told that peace is loving, kind & calm. i certainly aspire to be all three & so, i almost naturally fall into its bosom, because it feels warm & inviting to me.

on the other, there’s the world of justice. justice is thorough & meticulous. it requires a lot of effort to be just, because it leaves no stone unturned. on the surface, justice sounds more rigid than peace & more times than not, it is. justice seeks to identify the issue & where things are said to belong; it then launches investigation on the divide & aims to rectify the matter. i identify with the endgame of justice, but also take stock of the work & the feathers that will be potential ruffled in the process of seeking justice.

peace is ideal, but when peace is offered in a shallow attempt to mend what’s broken, justice is circumvented. i love harmony & hope we find it one day, but, in this time & place, there’s work to be done to achieve it in full, without question. therefore, to call for peace, before or without earnestly seeking justice first, is to thoroughly turn a blind eye to the levity of struggle & even worse, is to passively strike a violent blow upon millions of already marginalized bodies.

in this year i have come to see this as absolute truth. the democracy of south africa is a young & developing 22 years of age. one could drive around one of the country’s beloved cities, travel a relatively short distance & see literal & symbolic images of a country still rebounding from an ugly history. the state-sanctioned segregation of apartheid is no longer legal. however, though some of the essential freedoms, such as: the right to vote, the right to take up residence in one of the beloved major cities & the ability to be gainfully employed anywhere are now available to non-white citizens of this country, it is readily apparent to anyone who spends time here that there’s much left to be done.

in the rural village that i call home, demoralizing poverty, lack of accessible quality education & healthcare, joblessness, and disease still plague the communal body. what’s more, is in the communities such as the one i call home, the experience of these collective traumas have seemingly left lives in bleaker conditions than in times of the apartheid era. there’s work to be done, not only in terms of building sustainable living for all, but also in building equitable opportunity that is sustainable. this work will be long & rigorous – this work must be lead & sustained through an earnest effort to create a society based around justice seeking.

of course, based on what’s at stake, there are those who will continue to call for peacefulness. this stems from the subconscious realization that, if justice prevails, what results is loss of not only the profits of privilege, but also loss of an identity centered around the subjugation of bodies. prioritizing peace benefits the privileged, because, peace, in this context is to ignore one’s culpability & place the hones on the oppressed to forgive & move on. not only is this problematic because of lacking accountability, but also, because in the long run, nothing has changed.

it must also be said that many well-meaning folks prioritize peace-building over justice-seeking, even through a proclaimed desire to work for change. this comes from a short-sided view of the divide that looks at it as only an interpersonal matter. let’s be clear – the attitudes & deep-seeded beliefs of oppressors are indeed what have laid foundation for this plunder, but, there’s carnage that must be accounted for. the interpersonal is only a pillar of the design. the systemic, organizational & institutional pillars have long been the fruits of the labor interpersonal hate has harvested. to neglect this is to be a passive part of the divide.

if we’re really about liberation, this whole thing needs to be uprooted – there’s no two ways about it. justice is needed & long overdue.

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interlude iv: june newsletter – moonlit hours

loved one,

there’s something so sacred about the moon as it rests above us. its great pull, the way it guides the waters that have the capacity to rage wildly. the subtle nature, the way it shades itself for days & in its own cycle, fully reveals to remind all of the great wonder. this great beauty it holds from a distance pales in comparison to the accounts of its beauty by those granted a chance to explore it near. a land that lacks gravity, with craters & potentially undiscovered life.

that land is vast & incomprehensible to me – so the same with this pending transition back home to the united states.

loved ones, i write to you in the night fall of my time here in south africa – month eight of ten, to be specific.

i don’t write you with any new discoveries. instead, i come before you shrouded in mystery, with a burden of anticipation. i am coming home to you with many stories that i am excited to share, but in this time i feel it necessary to just to sit in awe of the view before me.

my eyes have witnessed many things in this time – sights of love & trauma. they’ve all converged together to make a year away from you that has been full. of course, with the anticipation of returning home to you, there’s also a great sense of loss that has overtaken my being. i am leaving not only sacred land, but a sacred people conjoined as one body, with a sacred story that i will cherish until my dying day.

i get chocked up when i think about life without this body of people. this context has become a daily reality for me. the way of living i’ve come into, though familiar in some ways, has shaped me in new form. a part of me selfishly hopes i’ve done some shaping work also in these relationships.

this darkness hums over me, but do not confuse this darkness for some sort of negative agent. i’ve had to fight a battle within myself over the last month, refusing to let the sentimental way of being that has taken over me, snatch me away from the present – it can’t, though it’s capable of doing so. because the moon above me is guiding me as i be, as assigned by the divine creator.

i am carried in strength by all phases of our moon in this evening hour. from dusk to the approaching dawn of my return home. what i love most about the evening hours, is the space it gives me to create from an introspective angle following the buzz of the daytime. & this has indeed been a time of reflection of all that’s been before me to witness.

what i’ve created in this time of silence is words of gratitude – to you & to this community. in our morning devotions before work, we’ve been focusing on the forming church following the ascension of jesus christ. the themes that sing aloud for me are the acts of not only the apostles, but of the larger community. i think this theme continues on throughout the epistles. each and every single person contributes to the mission.

each & every one of you have been guiding me with gentle whispers as i’ve walked this path of service. i send gratitude & thanks again, because you’ve guided me to new things.

so, as i sit in this moonlit hour reflecting on all that has been, with eyes slowly but surely welling up for a great release of tears, that i hope i’ve made you proud.
i’ve accomplished dreams here – of ancestors, alive or perished & of my own flesh. it still boggles my mind how i made it through this entire year, not merely surviving, but thriving with love & a story to tell.

i sit on this patio, where the wind whips across my face & the stars illuminate the scene around me, with a grin. this moon above me is the same where you are & the sky is as beautiful where you sit & in this, we’re connected. i wonder what has been of your life since we’ve last spoke, if ever. i wish you love & the full experience of life alongside it.

with love & peace,
rjmy

free?

to be free;
what then,
would then my limbs give way to?
a dance, song, or some other rhythm?

what really,
are the possibilities
afforded to me?

would i saunter,
cautiously?

or would i run,
no longer subjugated?

would the world finally resolve,
or would the sum of it all be inconclusive?

we’ve all been reduced,
we’ve all known pain –
some more than others,
but what could we really be,
if on even plain?

would we be
birds of the air,
or would continue to toil,
below?

the labor is rigorous,
but is what we reap,
the thing?

reflections: freedom day

YAGM in Southern Africa

On April 27th, South Africa celebrated Freedom Day. YAGM-SA participant Ryan wrote the following reflection, shared with permission:

today, april 27th, south africa celebrates freedom day. this day commemorates the first truly democratic election in 1994, in which all citizens of this country were permitted to vote. this moment was achieved through the anti-apartheid movement, spearheaded by numerous sectors of the marginalized community here, most notably, the african national congress (anc). on may 10th, nelson mandela was officially inaugurated as president of the newly free south africa, after a resounding victory that made waves worldwide.

this day carries a lot of weight for me, because of the opportunity i’ve had this year to get down with amazing people in conversation about what it meant to go out & vote, casting their support for nelson. though, many have argued that the anc of that time is not represented in this…

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i see you in lakes

if only you were face to face with me at this very moment.
instead,
we’re distant bodies counting scars.

i love you
& i want you to love me just a much
i saw your beating heart
& i treasured it.

we were by the lake
& i just wanted to hold you through the waves.

actually,
whenever we’re
eye to eye,
lakeside,
there’s something so sweet i find in you.

the tides bring rest to you
& all the while,
i find myself
tossed & turned by you –

to be disembodied.

i’m weary,
because,
i’ve never wanted serendipity to slip away from us.

but fear
came & grabbed my convinced limbs.
i wanted you to grab me,
when you saw me waywardly.

perhaps you were more concerned
with figuring out what your touch
could do for you.
i cannot blame you
for the exploration –
life is short & love is fleeting.

i stand here alone with a stubborn spirit & tangible loss –
what is it to be disembodied?

in feeling removed from you,
i feel removed
from a vital part of myself.
the numbness has
left me wholly removed
from my own humanity –
i only feel sickly.

i miss your skin,
what it was like
to see,
savor & perhaps
touch your precious skin.

drunken babbler prayer

here i am,
drunken babbler,
with a prayer –
i want love to come over me in this life i live.
i never intended to do no harm or hurt nobody,
lord.

i’m shackled to regret
& it’s been months
i been sittin’ here depressed.
feelin’ as hollow
as a empty jug container –
fill me up lord.

i’m tired & temperamental now.

i just want a swig of that hope you been passin’
’round here,
lord.

i see smilin’ faces right ’round me
& this bottle of hennessy ain’t did nothin’
to help me get what they done got –

i’m just dizzy drownin’ in the doubts.

just give me a chance to be yours,
good lord.
promise i’s take all the right steps towards you,
if you guide me.

see, once i lay this here bottle down,
i lay my life down wit’it.
i’m jus askin for rest,
sweet lord – i don’t wanna be weary no more.

& as you raise up,
bring me with ya.

today,
i wanna take wings
up one of them angels up there
& fly away from here.

amen.

-rjmy

in loving memory

roses are red, murder is crimson.
so, when i lose this life,
bury me with a dozen.
show me you love me,
just this once.
place them delicately over my heart,
so i know it’s real.

for all these years, i lived in your cages.
shackled by your vices.
but that wasn’t enough – you needed the visual,
so you knew it was real.
four walls surrounded me as i went without shelter.

four years went by,
& all the tears i shed became tattoos.
freedom was taboo, so i took a little bit from each
& everyone i saw with some.
then i saw it for what it was –
being released into the dream was the real danger.

-rjmy