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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 87 Looking at the picture of the wisdom brothers, Joshua and I are both crying now. We see that in the picture they look like warriors. The weight of what they know— their penetrating wisdom, what they see in the world, the reality they’ve experienced, so different from the fantasy of twentieth- century U.S. material culture—is evident. So is their courage to make a difference. Neither of us can find the words to express the anguish this picture holds. Of the three depicted there, only Joshua remains. We lost Rasheed to murder a year after we lost Jamil. Joshua whispers through his tears, “I should not be here. It’s only a matter of time.” I hold him close, connecting with the sense of powerlessness I know I share with my enslaved African ancestors, whose children were ripped away from them with a brutal force. AS HE LEAVES, Joshua reminds me about a gathering that will take place the next day. Over the last year, he has been bring- ing together the youth of the community to talk, to cry, to rest for a while knowing they are not alone. In this safe space, they acknowledge the broader historical, politi- cal, and cultural contexts that have given rise to the trauma and estrangement they experience in their communities. Having such a space is important to them, because they know the costs in shame and self- blame that come from not having a broad- er understanding of their situation. During these gatherings, these young people invoke the mighty warriors past and present to help guide their healing journeys: Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. Du Bois, bell hooks, Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni. They revive ancestral rituals. Through the pouring of libations, through prayer and the Middle Passage to America, and life in slavery on the plantations had not an- nihilated the spirit of African-Americans. But the silent, unacknowledged, physical and spiritual genocide of their children would—if something didn’t change. It would be natural for the recognition of this injustice to arouse in Joshua a rage that would fester just beneath the surface— the kind of rage that settles in the heart of so many colonized and subjugated peoples. But something else happened. He realized that he also carried the blood of the Chero- kee Nation and of the Scots-Irish of Appa- lachia. And although the racial codes of our society discourage most of us from claiming all of who we are, Joshua found himself able to do so. Underneath his rage, he found grief, and within his grief he found his broken heart. From the compassion he found within his broken, open heart, he has been able to do something. As Joshua prepares to leave after a long and rich conversation, he thanks me, as he has so many times before, for offering him a place to be heard, a home in my heart, and sometimes a message or two that moves through me from some ancestral anguish-wisdom. How can I begin to tell him that he has offered me so much more, without confusing his desire to respect me as elder and express his gratitude? Before he leaves, he removes a picture from an envelope that had rested between us as we talked. There they are, the three of them—Jamil, Joshua, and Rasheed— the wisdom brothers, as they called them- selves and were called by many. They of- fered each other community, connection, and understanding. They made music and poetry together, to share with us all as they tried to heal themselves. And some- how, through their confusion and pain and rage, they had made their way to the river beneath the river and answered the call of the ancestors to begin the journey back to their hearts. In the process, they opened a way and invited us all. Somehow, through their confusion and pain and rage, these young men had answered the call of the ancestors to begin the journey back to their hearts. In the process, they opened a way and invited us all. AFFILIATED WITH THE FOUNDATION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE MAHAYANA TRADITION (FPMT) MAITRIPA INSTITUTE 2007 ADVANCED BUDDHIST STUDIES PROGRAM YANGSI RINPOCHE . . . SCHOLARSHIP . . . MEDITATION .. . SERVICE with Applications are now being accepted for the second cohort of Maitripa Institute’s Advanced Buddhist Studies Program, to begin Fall 2007 in Portland, OR. Space is limited. Applications are due February 1, 2007. FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.maitripa.org 503.235.2477 graduate education from a practitioner’s perspective