by Wendy Estavien
“This is my body, which I have given up for you” stopped being a part I heard at mass and started being a cry in the voices of black women and men who have died unjustly on this land. It ceased from being a comforting phrase of sacrifice and love, and became a haunting one of fear and anguish.
“This is my body, which I have given up for you” translated to “Don’t shoot."
It started to sound like racial slurs and microaggressions. On several occasions, it came out gasping, “I can’t breathe." The congregational response has always been the horrific screams of bystanders too afraid to intervene, the chants of protestors in the streets, and the cries of people on social media platforms across the globe.
The congregation is louder this time.
The cries are louder.
The chants are stronger.
The fear is abundant, but the desire for change is there.
I have been here before. I have felt the despair that follows another human sacrifice to racism that has branded itself to the United States. I have listened and learned of a long history of injustice at the hands of people who don’t look like me. I’ve grown to understand how that has infiltrated systems across the nation so quietly that most didn’t even realize what they committed to until it was challenged.
I’ve also learned that there is grace in dismantling systems that have failed our black people that were so perfectly created in the image of God. I have been inspired to action. I have been called to speak my truth and have done so, unapologetically, over and over again.
So this is my body, and I am changing the narrative.
This is my body, my black body. I will no longer give it up. I will no longer be feared, scorned, or killed for the rich tone of my skin. I refuse to be a hashtag, nor will I become a political dispute. I will just be. I will exist in this unforgiving world. I will take up space. I will not beg for a seat at a table, but build my own table and invite others to break bread with me. The essence of this melanin will linger and it will inspire generations to come.
This is my body, my strong body.
Gone are the days of sacrificing black men and women to racial injustice. Gone are the days where others speak explicitly over black experiences they have not suffered or celebrated.
May our black children never stand in fear of their neighbors, but continue to love them and each other. May they know who they are, in this world and in the eyes of God. May they grow to know evil, so that they can combat it with truth and light. May they invoke radical change, in whatever way makes them feel validated and heard. And when they heal from their pain, they do it with love. May they live to see the story unfold.
This is my black body and the body of so many others, and we will continue on.