…BUT, MUCH MORE JOY THAN SORROW!
I have found the writings of the Lebanese American artist, poet and writer Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) helpful in my 78-year journey as a southern-born (North Carolina) and Texas-raised African American. The sadness and sorrow of the unfairness of my treatment as a black American may have infected me in ways quite different from the ways others were affected. Early on I realized that there was a brooding, isolating sadness about me that most of my friends were able to avoid. It could have been that the sicknesses caused by my asthma soon after I was born, shaped both my emotional as well as my physical being. Thus, the racism that hurt and harmed my community, my family and me, may have had a deeper impact upon me because of my health or lack thereof. When I first read these words of Khalil Gibran, they seemed to be written especially for me:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And, the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
I finally discovered as a teenager that despite the sorrows that racism caused, I should never allow those sorrows to deny or diminish my capacity for joy. I experienced this to my surprise in the Civil Rights Movement. I do not remember the southern city where we were demonstrating during the day, but I will never forget the joy that permeated our gatherings in the evening. The music, laughter, dancing, and celebrating that was ours after confronting the bias, bigotry and hatred of the day, would have appeared to be contradictory to the casual, non-participant observer. But, it was an expression of the joy that is possible when a person or a people refuse to allow the negation of some to drown out the joy and laughter that is possible when one is “standing up on the inside” in actions that challenge those who seek to limit full expressions of their humanity.
I EXPERIENCED THIS JOY AT THE PFLAG NATIONAL CONVENTION IN ALEXDRANDIA, VA!
The Convention included parents, families and friends of Lesbians and Gay persons, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Intersex persons, all gathered to celebrate and continue the significant work of PFLAG. We know that at various times when in the weather there is a combination, maybe confrontation of rain and sunshine, the result is often a multi-colored rainbow. I know more than I ever did before why rainbow colors have become the visual expression, in the flags and banners and posters of that we call the “Gay Human Rights Movement”. The tears evoked by the negatives of homophobic heterosexism in faith institutions and in society have been met by the smile/laughter/joy of “PFLAG PEOPLE” who know more than ever that, “In the End, we are going to Win.” (Because we already have won within ourselves.)
I understood in Alexandria, what Khalil Gibran meant when he wrote, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.” I saw, I felt, I experienced this joy with my PFLAG sisters and brothers. May each and every day be a “Rainbow Day” for you who read this.
Gilbert H. Caldwell
Member, National Board of PFLAG
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