“Places where we can exhale”

Dear President Trump,

I’ve taken most of the day off from the news so hopefully you haven’t done anything horribly nasty, scary, or egregious in the last 24 hours. You probably have, but I’m going to pretend, for now, that you haven’t and go with my plan to cover some more good news today.

I want to start with yesterday’s Poem-Of-The-Day, which is entitled “My Love is Black,” by DeLana R. A. Dameron. Ms. Dameron brilliantly describes the all-pervasive fear she feels for her husband and all the Black people she loves, including herself. She speaks tragically matter-of-factly about how she wonders every night when her husband leaves for work whether that night will be the night she becomes a widow and how when it’s cold and they are walking holding hands inside his jacket pocket he instinctively takes their hands out when a policeman walks by. Better cold than dead. Her lament, which is laced throughout the poem, is “I don’t want to love like this.” No. Who would? Obviously the fear and dread she faces every day is not good news, but the fact of the poem is and the fact of the poem having made it into hundreds of thousands (I hope) people’s inboxes yesterday is too. I think Ms. Dameron’s poem is like an inverse periscope; some people are invited in to see what life is like when one loves Black people and others are invited in so they know their reality is shared, that they aren’t crazy.

The other piece of good news has to do with the painter Amy Sherald. I know it’s about as likely as pigs flying, but you may have seen the portrait she painted of Michelle Obama in the National Portrait Gallery. This isn’t what I want to tell you about her, but it makes me smile every time I think of the tiny Black girl who looked up at Ms. Obama’s image and said “she’s a queen!” and how Ms. Obama arranged to meet her.

Ms. Sherald has a big solo show in St. Lois and in an interview about her work was asked what it means to her to be depicting Black people, specifically. She responded with: “Well, for me what’s important about the work is that it is a place where we can exhale. …..that it’s nice to come into a space and see yourself expressed gently and just being able to sit with that.” What a gift.

May we all be safe to keep our hands in our pockets.
May we be happy for everyone to have places where they can exhale.
May we become a society where everyone sees themselves expressed gently.
May we make peace with each and every other.

Tracy Simpson

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