ARE YOU LISTENING

On October 21, 2018, Resonance Ensemble's Poet in Residence, S. Renee Mitchell premiered this original work at HIDDEN VOICES, the opening concert of our tenth season. The concert took place at Bethel A.M.E. church, the oldest continuously operating black church in Portland, Oregon.

 photo credit:  Rachel Hadiashar

photo credit: Rachel Hadiashar

This afternoon - we are here -  here together
And together, we will dream
Dream of our community becoming better
It is so much better when we listen
Listen to recognize yourself in the other
Recognize yourself in someone else’s pain
Someone else’s laughter  - struggles -  singing
Singing in spite of their struggles
Rising in spite of the ache
Are you listening?

This afternoon, the vibrations of our Resonance
Will be deep and provocative
And echoing with hope
Bravo Youth Orchestra will string together a piece of Adoration
Connected to a Price you’ll never pay
Keep listening

Kingdom Sound will be humming with a harmonious anointing
Singing hymns and Negro spirituals
And you will hear words that will move you
Words that will uncover wounds
Wounded words that - just might - disturb and distress you
Keep listening

Keep listening to the words
The words that will be spoken
And the words that will be sung by this ensemble behind me
Words that will - implore - you to think
Think about - what freedom really means
You will hear words that will teach us love indeed
Words that will offer a prayer
A prayer for showers of blessing
Blessings to fall down repeatedly
Fall down on Even Me
Keep listening

Listen to the voices
Voices that reflect the words of children
Undocumented children who walked for miles
Countless miles and endless days
Carrying water to keep de-hydration at bay
Because crossing the border is incredibly
Difficult - dangerous  -  and often deadly
So children are told to keep quiet
Be quiet – don’t talk
Keep quiet so adults could listen
Listen adequately for armed adversaries
And rattlesnakes that hide under rocks
And stinging scorpions whose venom they store in their tails
Can cause numbness and vomiting and convulsions for up to 72 hours
The voices of children within these songs today
Are trying to tell you their story
Keep listening

Keep listening
Because the existence of these youthful voyagers
And their growing presence in our public schools
Should move us to have mercy
Recognize the commonality of their deepest longing
So until then, these songs you will hear this evening are necessary
They - undeniably - speak the truths of these dreamers
Their words will be sung in acapella
And the singing and the  swaying to a certain rhythm
Will re-tell tales of resisting a racist system
Of adjusting - of acclimating - of adapting
Of forgetting native language in order to fit in
Fit in to an unfriendly and foreign land
To a point where these children’s
Smiles, their laughter, their cultural dances
Their claps and their twists - as if picking limes
Become spiritual acts of defiance
Against hostile words both spoken and imagined:

Go back home, illegals. You don’t belong here.

Aqui estamos
Here we are
We are here
Here, where we belong
Are you listening

Listen - listen to the makings of an African American requiem
An original musical act of remembrance
Of the history America tries - so hard-  to forget
Listen to words that will remind you
Of how much emancipation actually cost
The black lives that matter
But are – even today - continuously lost
Not just lost - But taken
Historically hung by the neck and then barbecued at picnics
With smiling white children serving as intergenerational witnesses
Intoxicated with the nostalgic aroma of hate
And indoctrinated to mindlessly press repeat
Generation after generation after generation
Keep listening
Keep listening
Because Damien has weaved black trauma
Into a stunning orchestral score
And as a member of “one of Oregon’s most valuable musical resources”
Has created an opportunity to have some of the city’s best voices
Sing so sweetly about the casualties of
The seemingly never-ending war on racism
Keep listening – Please, keep listening
Listen to words about how difficult it is sometimes just to breathe
Keep listening  -  Lean in - And listen
Because these words are intended to move you
Move you closer toward our shared humanity
We are teaching you
To travel with us into deep rivers
And not drown from heartbreak
Are you listening

Will you stand by me
Despite my faults and my failures
Will you understand
The times when I need to just catch my breath
Will you watch with me
As the storm passes over
Will you look closely
To make sure your actions – your beliefs – and your politics
Reflect the world we all say we want to see
The world where each one of us
Gets to experience what freedom actually means
Will you hear our hidden voices?
Will you pay attention to the chorus of possibilities
It is all we ask

Are you listening?

© 2018 S. Renee Mitchell

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ABOUT S. RENEE MITCHELL

S. Renee Mitchell, POET IN RESIDENCE, is a published author, curriculum designer, community activist and multi-media artist. She also is a sur\thriver who has found her life purpose since disentangling from bullying, sexual assault and domestic violence. After 25 years as an award-winning newspaper journalist - where she was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize - Renee reinvented herself as a Creative Revolutionist; co-founded a culturally specific, drop-in DV resource center; and began gifting her talents to community as a poet, playwright, performer, speaker, teaching artist and self-taught graphic designer in order to create and contribute to empowering projects and programs, community healing ceremonies, plays, songs and books about healing from trauma. Motivated by intention and heart, Renee’s deepest desire is to help others use their creativity to let go, gather up and move on in order to find themselves, their voice, and their place in the world. You can find out more about Renee’s work at ReneeMitchellSpeaks.com.