The voices that I hear with a full heart are those of affirmation
rather than struggle. Langston Hughes had such a voice:

“I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow
of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the MIssissippi when Abe Lincoln went
down to New Orleans and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn
all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”


I was not part of that struggle; I was not aware until late in
life that these words were the words of my ancestors.
I can notice how deeply grateful I am to have been given
so much to live up to. No longer separate, one of many.

with love …


I have not spoken here, yet, of the experience of our family when we finally
welcomed our ancestor from obscurity, ours the re-discovery to create
openings in how, now, I see my world.

Look at that!
I started the sentence with the voice of ‘we’, and found myself in an ‘I’.
I can say that describes my shift: out of the ‘we’, the group of us,
I could feel my own presence more flexibly.
What a surprise.

A poet sums it up:

“We did not come to remain whole.

We came to lose our leaves like the trees,

The trees that are broken

And start again, drawing up from the great roots.”

…………….. ROBERT BLY.

Last Sunday we dedicated the headstone that told of his life and death,
135 years ago, my great -grandfather, Dr. James McCune Smith, buried
in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

His roots were great, and our coming together showed me how, unknowing,
each of us has carried on his heritage in some way of living, of being with
courage in the world.

LIke the white doves that were released to open the dedication,
I feel a freedom I had not known I sought. I welcome our new cousins,
and love that we do look as if we came from the same roots!

And so it is.

with love …