We have come, over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
–James Wheldon Johnson, Lift Every Voice & Sing.
I do hope you will pardon me for refusing to bend my knee before you, dear world. But see, I’m a little tired of your empty promises to pursue ideals like justice and liberty and freedom and all those things you like to write about in newspapers, while you, at the same time, deny me the right to be free in my land. And I’ve got to say, you were really beginning to get to me; my spirit was cast down and my soul grew weary and I was depressed for some time.
Indeed, you had me in a very defeatist mood thinking I was some sort of aberration of a human being. You had me thinking I should somehow put up with your bigoted attempts at defaming my history, lying about my country, libeling my people and slandering my good name.
Like I should just let these things slide and let bygones be bygones. Like I should put up with you murdering my children in France and kidnapping my brothers in my own home. I thought to myself maybe I should try and sit comfortably in the New York opera house while you relished the butchery of my people and sold tickets to the public so they too could witness my inevitable defeat and, of course, cheer loudly at the final curtain call.
Yes world, you almost convinced me that I truly was inferior. Half-devil and half-child. Horns sticking out my head. Illegal occupier. Murderer of Christian children and Palestinian babies; I took their blood and used it for my bread. I’m greedy and cheap and crafter of all evil in this world. For a time you had me believing all this and worse.
But then I began to rememeber who I was.
And as I began to remember who I was — not who you said I was — but who I actually was, I had to stand back and laugh and admire myself because how could I even begin to allow myself to be defined by you?
I was born in the mountains of Judea, in the birthplace of civilization. My skin was carved so delicately from the sand dunes of time the great Architect Himself stood back and looked at me, his work, and had to announce out loud that It. Was. Good.
My history is etched on the cobbled stones of Jerusalem — my eternal capital — and it glows so bright, you’d swear that when you walked, its sparks were dancing delicately at your feet.
I am the native son of warrior poets and mighty men of valor. My brothers are so fresh and so cool, they kill lions and slay giants for fun, and they still find time to compose a song or two. My sisters are so fly, when they have something to say, they will speak their minds regardless of who you think you are. You could even be a Persian king who doesnt allow that sort of thing but my sisters are so beautiful, it doesn’t matter; he too will be charmed by their breathtaking magnificence.
These numbers you see tatooed on my arm are not the only story my life tells. I have known more hardship than that. My veins speak of my 400 year toil in Egypt and on my back, you can see the lashes I acquired from the Pharoahs who enslaved me. Babylon kidnapped me and made me genuflect before her self-absorbed kings. But three of my nephews defied her and walked through fire and came out alive.
Assyria raped and pillaged my villages and Greece put her pagan sculptures in my temple; yet I defied her too and my people fought with so much strength, they decided to name us after instruments that were made to beat nails into walls. Rome also trampled me underfoot; with her legions of war she tried to annihilate me.
But I am here and they are not, and now I stretch out my limbs and bend my back and, baby, I am free. Shilo is where I lay my head to rest when I so choose; to kick back and sip a delightful drink made from the cool crisp water of the Mediterranean Sea.
I ‘ve gotten word that you’ve been trying to boycott my land and my people. Is this really all you’ve got? That is cute. I was thrown out my land so many times I lost count and yet this strange pattern keeps occurring: I keep. Coming. Back. You’d think that by now you’d get the hint that my land is my song; my hearts beats to her ryhthm and without her, I’d die.
You, like the Greeks who came before you, seem to have this misconception that I can be stopped. But I cured your diseases and without me, baby, you wouldn’t even know what Google was. I gave you Moses and I gave you Jesus and my books, laws, and texts built your nations, so lets be frank: you are nothing without me. And if my attitude and sudden proud posture upsets you, that is fine. You will get over it. I know you’ve got to thinking by now that I was supposed to be this depressed, dejected, persecuted child who accepted the fate you sought to impose upon me.
That was cute too.
But contrary to your opinion, I am not the hapless victim you have imagined me to be.
I have been through far worse than you could ever put me through. I was beaten and bruised by oppressors throughout millennia; Yet, I am still here, bold and beautiful as the day I was born.
So you can try to lynch my brothers if you want. You can kidnap my sons but, I assure you, they will return. We will go on loving humanity so fiercely, you’ll be begging us for more, because that is simply what we do. My children will grow up to beome the 8th wonder of the world, because we just got it like that.
So please pardon me, dear world. I simply do not have the time to prostrate before your hollow thrones of sanctimonious chitchat. I’ve got things to invent, laws to create, mysteries to discover, and kingdoms to establish. And while I am busy I am sure you will concern yourself with whether you really can bring about my demise but rest assured that this much is true:
I have risen before and I will rise again.