Trayvon Martin in Alvin Ailey’s Armsby Jacquelyn Jackson on Mar. 24, 2012, under Uncategorized
Friday night at Centennial Hall, as I watched Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe perform his signature piece, Revelations, I imagined Trayvon Martin on stage, in the middle of all that beauty and movement, his soul being rocked in the bosom of Abraham.
Revelations was first performed in 1960 and its three parts tell a story of the pain of racism, a pain borne by millions of individuals throughout our nation’s history, and borne still by every one of us today.
The opening section of Revelations, entitled “Pilgrim of Sorrow, begins where we are today in the story of Trayvon: bodies heavy, arms reaching toward heaven, bearing the pain of the death of this 17-year-old, yearning for deliverance from all that our shared history of racism has wrought.
The dancers, dressed somberly in earth-colored skin tones, transform in the second section, “Take Me to the Water,” into lightness of being. A ceremonial baptism is enacted, a dance of purification. The dancers wear white, and one holds aloft a large umbrella draped in white satin that performs its own dance of sorts, lilting and swaying while at the feet of the dancers, yards of billowing blue silk stretch across the stage.
‘Bathe that sweet boy,” is all I can think as I watch the fabric rise and fall, moved by dancers on either end of the stage who are invisible to the audience. The motion of the fabric is hypnotic, so real I can hear the splash, feel the cool drops on my face.
“Wash us all,” I think. “Wash this nation and all of us in it who carry in our bodies the deep, deep scars of racism and hatred.”
Just yesterday, as I waited to turn left on Campbell Avenue, a black man crossed the street and I watched, aware that while I consider myself enlightened and non-racist, there is that place in my own belly that can quicken and hold, a tinge of fear lodged deeply in my bones can be triggered by the color of a person’s skin. It was placed there not by the words of acceptance and peace my parents taught me but by a long, sad history that dwells deep in our collective blood and bone. Set my people free.
A giant sun dominates the stage in the last section, “Move, Members, Move!” Dancers dressed in shades of yellow cool themselves with hand-held fans that move rapidly and in unison, demonstrating how deep belief and faith can air us out, transform and heal.
I imagined Trayvon in the middle of these dancers, cooled by those fans, smiling broadly, held in the circle of faith and belief. His body transformed by the healing yellow light and energy of the sun.
“Tell us, Trayvon, tell us,” I thought to myself as I watched. “You were taken so that we might all awaken. Cleanse our own tired bodies of the stink of racism that remains alive in our nation, in our lives, in our hearts.”
We need to sit still a moment, let ourselves be rocked in the bosom of Abraham, the bosom of nature, the bosom of faith. In this quiet, we can reach across the lines of color that bisect our nation and speak and live with truth, work together for justice, allowing his death to heal and transform.