Power and Privilege
David Oyelowo, British-Nigerian actor in “Selma” spoke with the same eloquence with which he acts. Speaking of portraying MLK as the main speaker at Martin Luther King Breakfast. He addressed power and privilege and it’s many implications. Growing up in the UK, he found his humble roots were of royalty in Africa. When experiencing his father’s native country he experienced humility by, and with, the people. Royalty includes all. When arriving in the United States he experienced a different type of power and privilege. Completely different.
At Minneapolis Central Library, retired Supreme Court Justice and former Vikings stand out, Alan Page and his wife Diane, provided to the masses, a powerful display of African American artifacts titled “Testify”. Noted above is a collar worn by a slave. There were many collars and keys. The owner held the key. Power and Privilege.
These events took me back to again watch Ken Burns Civil War Documentary mini-series and again, I asked the question, “How far have we come?” “How far did the bloodshed take us?” Today the question is still a question.
Star Tribune printed an article about reconnecting a walking bridge with the idea of joining together the Saint Paul Rondo community, one of our African American Community torn apart by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 with the construction of the I-94 Freeway. We know the impact of that decision. Or do we? The Highwaymen by Josh Wilder and directed by Jamil Jude detailed the cost in homes, businesses and a community torn apart, yes, torn apart. Changed forever. Decisions made with no sensitivity or care to the people involved or the long term impact. Power and Privilege.
Graduate of NYU, superb writer, amazing and beloved educator at a Catholic all girls high school, my daughter in law teaches English. She is the mother of five of my eleven beautiful grandchildren. She shared with me a poem she wrote just last week as part of a project with her students. Ironically, it is titled Power and Privilege. The poem speaks for itself. The subject–my adorable youngest grandson pictured above. Nicolas Theodore Sutton,-a heart taker and spirit maker.
Power & Privilege
By Nicole Marie Falcone Sutton
There he reclines in the crook of my heart,
Rosebud lips pursed, long-lashed eyelids closed,
Tucked in tight against me:
My little tyrant.
Once upon a time,
I went where I wanted to go,
Slept when I wanted to sleep,
Woke when I wanted to wake,
Ate what I wanted
Shopped as I needed – for as long as I needed –
And now I have no power.
You see, they hand you this tiny bundle,
And you’re already exhausted after nine months and several hours of hard work fashioning this perfect little human and wrestling him into the light,
And suddenly gravity shifts,
And a fist the size of kumquat
Seizes hold of your heart.
You can barely breathe.
Life is over as you know it
And a new existence stretches before you.
The only problem is, of course, you don’t know the rules,
You don’t speak the language,
Are scared to death,
And terrified of your new master.
Check his diaper;
Check his little hands and feet,
Fingers and toes;
Is there a hair thread around some tiny body part?
Is something pinching him?
Is he in pain?
Is that a tooth?
Does he feel warm to you?
Are his eyes supposed to do that?
He doesn’t seem hungry;
He seems too hungry;
Why is he sleeping so—not sleeping so much?
Really, why did you just dirty the clean diaper I literally put on you two minutes ago?
Were you waiting for me to put you in that clean diaper just so you could poop?
Yeah, I can appreciate that.
I just fed you – you can’t possibly be hungry.
You’re kidding me. You’re seriously hungry?
What the heck is in this breast milk?
Change my diaper
Change my diaper again
(no, seriously, again because you were an idiot and changed that last one too soon and I wasn’t done yet)
Hold me Hold me some more
I really do like those cuddles
Put me to sleep
I can’t just fall asleep if you all you do is lay me down in that cold, hard crib
I need warm arms
My husband is 6 feet 3 inches tall
Weighing over 200 pounds – a tall white man of “power” –
And yet he would never dare to demand.
In fact, he spoke the most beautiful words to me just the other day,
Words so romantic and heartfelt, I literally melted:
“What can I do for you today?”
But this tiny beast-baby,
Pushing two feet
Weighing just over 20 pounds,
(Dumping my drawers,
Dragging my clean folded laundry all over the house,
Upending bowls of food,
Throwing cups, spoons, pieces of pancake, toy cars, hairbrushes, my cell phone, half-chewed apple slices – you get the picture, everything)
Stares at me with his jewel-eyes framed in long dark lashes,
Takes his little fists, wraps them around my neck
And pulls me in for the wettest, slobbiest kiss I’ve ever received,
And though I am powerless to control my life—
And though I am powerless to do all the things I used to do—
And though I am powerless against such a beautiful little tyrant who depends upon me for his very existence—
The futility and captivity I experience are all part of the privilege,
The powerlessness and anxiety,
The fears and frustrations,
—All part of this willing captivity that finds me, at times, so at odds with myself and yet so at peace within myself.
This is the right kind of power and privilege. Copyright 01.19.2018
David Oyelowo, Martin Luther King, Ken Burns, a collar, Alan and Diane Page, Rondo and Nicky. Impacted by Power and Privilege.
Womb to tomb, ALL life is sacred. And all life has power and privilege. It comes through loving one another.