MadameNoire Featured Video

Psalms for Black Girls/rainbows

Source: iOne Creative / iOne

 

Earlier this summer, my dad, uncle, two cousins and I were standing on my father’s front lawn down in the country, on the land of his childhood, reminiscing about the small family farm and business that once spread up and down my daddy’s street. My father’s father raised and sold hogs and chickens and slabs of wood just yards from where we were standing. Across the street, where tall trees and brush now serve as refuge for a small family of deer and all manner of racoon, squirrel and snake, there once was a small baseball field where my dad and his brothers used to play under the hot Virginia sun. As my dad and uncle pointed and talked and scratched up memory, clouds rolled into the grey-blue sky, which then quickly filled with water. I knew a rainbow would soon follow. Not because it rained while the sun was shining, but because the air was vibrating with memory. With history. With love.
Daddy joked that rainbows only show up on the white side of town. I laughed because my father is a fool, but also because I know better. When one communes with the past, with the present, with self, in that solitude, where reverence is paid, eyes are open, and hearts are ready to receive, God/Universe/The Ancestors show up—show out. Sure enough, moments after my prediction, a rainbow stretched itself high above the exact ground on which my grandmother birthed my father and his six siblings, all of whom were caught by the hands of my great grandmother, a midwife and healer who’d owned the land on which my family was standing.

This is how it happens for me when I’m paying attention. When I open my heart to receive. There will be something on my mind—a question, a concern, a memory, a desire—and there it will be, a hummingbird, buzzing directly in my face, or a swarm of lady bugs covering the whole of a window—a red bird dancing on a tree branch directly in my sightline, or, yes, a ribbon in the sky. Always, it will be something beautiful reminding me to trust my gut, my intuition.
Peek into cultures throughout time and somewhere these things hold significance. In one of the oldest continuous religious beliefs in the world, the Aborigines depict the rainbow-serpent as the creator of human beings and the keeper of waterways, the bearer of the sustenance needed for every living thing. The Greeks and Romans believed the rainbow was the embodiment of the goddess, Iris, the messenger who links the gods to humanity. Christians believe the rainbow to be a symbol of God’s promise, while the Cherokee believe it to be the hem of the sun’s coat. Any old Black southerner will remind you just how lucky lady bugs are, and they swear a red bird crossing your path is an ancestor coming back to tell you a thing or five. Hummingbird sightings mean it’s time to stop worrying and welcome joy into your life.
I make a point of noticing each of these things, if only because they are a reminder that I am never, ever moving through this life alone—that something so much bigger and more profound is clearing a path for me to understand what confuses me, to lift what may seem like it’s too heavy, to find that which I seek. At the very least, they stretch smiles all the way across my face. I see a rainbow and I look at it in the same way Alice Walker memorialized the color purple in her iconic book, “The Color Purple”: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” she wrote.
This is where my head was last week when I pulled into the parking lot of Trader Joe’s here in Midtown, Atlanta, and immediately noticed rainbows flashing from practically every car windshield in my immediate vicinity. I stretched my head backward and then forward, trying to get a glimpse of this ribbon in the sky, but it was nowhere to be seen.
And then I looked up.
Right there, looking like a miracle, was a double sunbow—two rainbows ringing our planet’s brightest star. I stood there in that parking lot, giggling and marveling at that miracle and snapping pictures like a lunatic. There were people all around me, staring at their phones, packing groceries in their cars, rushing into the store, barking at people through their earbuds, paying not one iota of mind to what was happening right above their heads.
Finally, I pointed out the double sunbow to a lady grabbing a cart near my car. “Cool,” she said, giving a lazy glance up. “I can’t really see it. The sun’s too bright in my eyes.”  I stifled narrowing my eyes and explained to her that she should look outside the sun, not at the sun, to see the rainbows. She just went on about her business. Thinking maybe a kid would match my excitement, I spotted one—a little white girl with an older Black woman I presumed to be the child’s sitter. With the woman’s permission, I pointed out the sunbows to the little girl, who, too, gave it a half a glance. “Do you see them?” I asked excitedly.
“Yeah,” she said, more annoyed than impressed.
“What did you just say?” her sitter barked.
The girl was silent.
“Did you just say, ‘yeah?’” the sitter demanded.
Still nothing from the girl.
The sitter looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said something about the challenges of teaching errant white children the King’s English. Because this was infinitely more important than reveling in the beauty of what had unfolded in the sky.
This irked the hell out of me on that day, but since, I’ve gathered that it wasn’t my job to convince everyone else around me to get hyped at the sight. It was meant for me to take stock of what had been on my mind that very moment when I pulled into that parking lot and saw the colors—to know that deep in my gut, I knew what I needed to do and knew, too, that something greater than me has my back in that decision.  With that knowledge came calm—immeasurable peace.
Look up every once in a while, and you may tap into this peace, joy, understanding and love, too.
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