The white cloaked figures stood a half dozen deep in front of the red brick church I was attempting to enter. One stepped forward and grabbed my wrist with a pinkish pale hand sprinkled with prickly blond hair. The hand jerked my arm and I gasped in shock and panic, but before I could blink, I was in front of Trump Tower. Screens surrounded me on the sides and tops of sky scrapers, and I watched with disbelief as the bodies of Black men hung by ropes, rotating ever so slightly, bodies alight with the flash of phone cameras as white Trump supporters celebrated the President Elect with human sacrifice. Just as someone approached the bodies with a Bic lighter pulled from a pocket filled with unmarked ballots, I decided to look down and noticed on my wrist a smudge of black that was not my skin. Seven numbers followed by the letter B were stamped across my wrist, the wrist I had once considered marking myself with the words of Audre Lorde, “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
I jerked awake and realized that I had dreamt this on the night before the election, the night before Decision 2016.
I was jumpy and nervous all day. I was registered to vote in my hometown, which despite the inconvenience of having to drive an hour to perform my civic duty, reassured me. My father, a big man who stood 6’3 and drove a Range Rover, would accompany me to the polls in the afternoon.
My entire family went together to the polls, which for us was housed in a Baptist Church which stood at the corner of one of the entrances to our neighborhood. It was manned by severe, but kind, old ladies who had likely spent their youth in churches just like that one fighting so that I might pass easily through, cast my vote, and leave unharmed.
In spite of that, I still shook as I waited to hand the pollster my identification, afraid that some unknown thing would swoop down and bar me from my right.
Pennsylvania began to turn red and my mind began to go blank.
I only spoke to one friend as the results began to come in. I sat in my parents’ living room with the news muted, my computer screen split as I typed out the beginnings of an essay– the other half displaying the election results which were refreshed every thirty seconds. Every now and then, I would pick up my phone, give my friend an update. She wouldn’t watch. She couldn’t watch. I couldn’t stop. She believed that denial would stop her chest from caving in; I believed that the truth would douse the pain in mine.
When Pennsylvania began to turn red, I shut down my laptop, put away my phone and went to bed.
At six AM, my father’s alarm went off. I was already awake, staring at my ceiling. I slid out of the bed and crept into my parents’ room, like I used as a child when I had been awoken by a bad dream. My father woke so quickly at the sound of my unusually small, broken voice, that I knew he had not been asleep.
“Daddy. Trump won.”
We talked all morning. My eyes were raw, my faith shaken, my humanity invalidated.
Yet, at quarter to 8 found me in my car, dressed, my books packed, and my obliviously happy dog riding shot gun into the sunrise. Despite my initial decision to “Call in Black,” I found my spine to be made of steel, and my head unbowed. I would go and learn today, because my ancestors did not fight for me to hide.
I managed to uncover a truth in the restless hours since I dreamt of an America I didn’t know, since I have lived in an America I haven’t yet truly met. Like a person, you may live in a country and never truly know its heart, its inner most thoughts, and fears. You may walk its streets every day and turn your head at the atrocities. You may never truly know what a country is capable of.
But more importantly, I discovered something about me. Ever since I discovered Angela Davis as an 8 year old, I had always wondered what I would be capable of in the face of adversity, but those questions were hypothetical. This morning, I had to ask myself the same question I had often asked myself in the moments before sleep, “Who am I going to be?”
My parents instilled in me a belief that God would not hand me anything I could not handle. God would not create a circumstance that we could not overcome. Though I may not have asked to be a soldier, though I may not have wanted to be a soldier, God chose me. God chose us. God chose this generation. He chose those who walk this Earth today. He believes that this collection of people will find a way to come together and overcome. They will be soldiers of good will, courage and hope.
These circumstances will make Martins, Malcolms, Stokelys, Angelas, and Johns out of my generation.
We will be soldiers forged in fire.
I will be a soldier forged in fire.