We Are Not Done

by Rev. Aaron Payson

We Are Not Done by Rev. Audette Fulbright Fulson  

     Do not think we are finished—
oh no
we will never be finished
never just done
until the light of justice is lit behind every eye.

     Do not think we will be silent—
there will not be silence until the world has sung the names
of the dead with full throats and still
we will sing on.

    Do not think fear is the end of us—oh
you are broken in mind and heart if you even imagine
that our fear for our lives is the end of this story.

     We are braver than you have ever conceived
and you
will not be the end of us.

     We have come to take back the world
the world that is the inheritance of better children
better lovers
better days.

     There will be love again but justice is our demand now.
You will not take us down
We are endless
and we
are coming
for you.

     In Memoriam—Eric Garner
Source: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/reading/we-are-not-done

These words by Annette Fulbright were included in this month’s Touchstone Ministry worship packet as part of the exploration of the theme “courage.” They speak a response to the killing of Eric Garner at the hands of the police.  They speak to another moment of extraordinary pain for families and communities across this country who are beset by systemic violence.  The history in this country of systems that have been established and maintained to control black and brown bodies, even unto death, is a long one; mired, as it is, in the history of white supremacy in this country and across much of the western world. 

This week, however, we are reminded that such violence is only one form of control that continues to be enacted against those who are most marginalized in our country.  The news that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn a nearly 50-year precedent which we have come to know as Roe Vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave the right to an abortion to those seeking such medical treatment, has rightly alarmed and enraged many people, while others hail it as a victory long-time coming. For me, it is an indication, again, of just how important it is to foster awareness, and courage in communities, to witness a different vision of liberty and justice.  

I continue to be inspired by the vision of reproductive justice that was born out of the clarion cry of black women in this country who demand that freedom is not attained until the full measure of human agency is reflected in the law, in the practice of health care, and the environments in which people choose to live.  It is an organizing and human rights framework based on the belief that every person has the right to have a child, to not have a child, and to parent children in safe and healthy environments.

This framework was born out of a critique of a movement largely framed by the concept of “choice” and offered a critical perspective that for many people, especially black and brown people who can become pregnant, and those in poverty, the idea of choice is fleeting at best.  There is no “choice” when the full measure of options are not available to support the decision to bring a child into this world or to end an unwanted pregnancy.  There is no “choice” if there is no means to raise a child in an environment that is not conducive to the flourishing of children and their families. There is no “choice” when the law does not recognize those who can become pregnant as moral agents and their privacy when it comes to making intimate and ultimate decisions about the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families.  

I find it more than ironic that during the height of the resistance to public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, many coopted the cry “My body. My choice.” as a matter of protest against unwanted infringement on personal liberty; a protest slogan that was born out of the fight for abortion rights.

For me, this was a fundamental misapplication of a sentiment born out of a legitimate argument for personal liberty and freedom; one that understood the private nature of reproductive decision-making and one that does not threaten public health or social welfare, except for those who do not have access to the necessary resources to make such decisions real.

We are in another critical moment of turning in this country.  A moment, that I hope will awaken the sleeping giant of people of conscience who will make their perspectives known to those we elect to govern us.  Fulbright said it best: ” We are braver than you have ever conceived and you will not be the end of us. We have come to take back the world the world that is the inheritance of better children, better lovers, better days. .There will be love again but justice is our demand now. You will not take us down. We are endless, firelit, determined, and we are coming for you.