Hope is a good thing, and good things never die.
– African Proverb
Sometimes I wonder about the people, places, and things we hold close. Some of us do well to hold on to what pleases us, while others hold to painful events and memories that oppress. In 2022, there are harms wrought by misogyny, transphobia, classism, racism, and other ills that have caused us to lose our grip on hope. This raises the question: are we holding hope or are we holding harms? Though we are challenged, we should embody the African proverb that proclaims, “hope is a good thing, and good things never die.”
When hope seems dead or on life support, it can be helpful to turn the voices of those who have gone before us. Since pain and suffering have taken residence in every generation, reviewing the lived experiences and the words of others is invaluable. I like to reflect on the works of the American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Missouri, Mr. Langston Hughes. An iconic work that reflects what it looks like to hold hope is found in the poem Let America Be America Again. Langston Hughes wrote his passionate poem in 1935 (published in the July 1936 issue of Esquire Magazine); this is an excerpt:
Let America be America again
Let it be the dream it used to be
Let it be: The Pioneer on The Plain
Seeking a home where he Himself is Free
(America never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false Patriotic Wreath,
But opportunity is real, and Life is Free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free”}
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled & pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the Land,
I am the Immigrant clutching the HOPE I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty, crush the weak.
O, yes, I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet, I swear this oath—America will be!
This excerpt highlights one’s dedication to hope. In 2022, when we aim to influence political decisions, recruit people to participate in a social issue, or help individuals be active participants in strengthening their communities, ‘hope’ must accompany us. Hope is the greatest companion to justice. Every movement that made a difference was undergirded by a spark of hope embedded in the fabric of each participant.
In the Gospel of Mark, the story of Jesus and his disciples traveling to Gennesaret by boat begins a valuable lesson of hope. Mark tells of how people recognized Jesus as soon as he exited the boat. Upon his arrival, they ran throughout the entire region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard Jesus was. And wherever he went – into villages, towns, or countryside – they placed the sick in the marketplaces. Mark details how the people begged Jesus to let them touch even the hem of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. This account illuminates hope that rests in the hearts of those who believe in change. The people in Mark’s gospel resolved that even a touch could impact their situation. We must challenge our hearts and minds to review the things we hold. If hope has dwindled, we must ignite its fire before our social and political work continues. So, reader, what are you hoping for?
Rev. Telika McCoy, Ph.D.
Faith Engagement Team Contributor