“The Unlikely Pair of Fire and Rain” – by Kyla Golding
As kids, we’ve been taught to take the history written down in books for what it is. We absorb the details of the black and white pictures, read the simply constructed sentences, and organize crucial human events into time periods with quirky names. We know what is taught, we accept what was, and we use that newly gained knowledge to shape what is and what will be. Though there’s room to argue about what’s missing from history books and academic curricula, there’s one thing that is always left to be desired: human experience. I’ll be honest. Never in my eighteen years of life did I imagine that in 2020, the world would practically be on fire. It’s this fire that has come to test the quality of each person’s work— born of flames of prejudice, politics, and pandemics — that I’ve grasped the essence of what it means to be living in the midst of history in the making.
The books and movies certainly couldn’t have prepared me for this one.
It’s June 3, 2020. The sun is out. I opened my window to let in some fresh air. It’s just the right amount of humid–you know, the kind that makes the baby hairs stand but the nose sweat. The air smells of morning dew. It was the day of my hometown’s peaceful protest. I was determined to be there. In a matter of hours I’d be marching the way they did in Selma all those years ago, the way they did for Women and Gun Control just a few years ago, the way the Israelites marched out of Egypt in the Bible. I was consumed with angst about the right words to put on a sign, the right necessities to pack away in my backpack, the right sneakers to wear on my weary, flat feet. I was consumed with an urgency to fight for Black lives, dreams, and futures. And yet, soon enough, the frantic preparation for a moment I thought was reserved for history books and movies, was over.
I made my way one foot in front of the other, through the streets of my hometown. I proceeded alongside family, friends, and allies. I wasn’t walking, though, I was marching. Steady, organized, rhythmic almost. My stride was different, stronger. My posture was different, I stood with purpose. My breath was different, heavier. There was power in my step. With each lift of my heel and touch of my toes, I could feel the fire around me become fire within me. Hours had gone by, hours of chants and speeches, hours of masked faces holding signs that intently expressed the sting of injustice, hours of togetherness. The collective had decided that with each step we would chant until they hear us, scream until they see us, and stride in solidarity until they stand with us.
That’s when I felt the first droplet.
I never really liked the rain. It’s gloomy. It has a musty smell sometimes. It’s cold and turns everything muddy and dirty. You have to scramble to find shelter quickly.
It’s coming down harder, and harder, and harder. It’s pouring.
A torrential downpour fell from the sky as the sun set and the moon began to rise. Something about this rain was different, stronger. Something about this rain was different, it fell with conviction. Something about this rain was different, heavier. There was power in its descent from the indigo sky. With each lift of my heel and touch of my toes, I could feel the rain which had come as a symbol of divine love and teachings to spread over the world. Even as a flood to wash away the sins of a world ablaze. Our work is revealed through the fire and yet revitalized in rain.
We knelt in the rain, in the street, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Rest in Power, George Floyd.
As the droplets fell on my head, I found a new appreciation for rain. My feet soaked through my shoes and socks, my pants getting dirtier by the second, the words on my sign smudged. And yet, I was cleansed. The rain fell on me but also poured into me. It intently mixed with the tenacious fire I’ve been taking in from the world.
That moment was part of shaping history. That moment — a moment that will remain crucial to who I am and who I’ll become, a moment that will champion my advocacy and teachings, a moment that has set in motion a chain of events within me — will shape generations of a family that starts with me, communities of which I am apart, spaces in which I am a leader, a creator, an innovator.
History in the making.
Imagine this: The year is 2050. I’m picking up my kids from school. I ask them what they’ve learned today, and they reply with: “We talked about the year 2020 today, Mom.” It’s raining. My mind flashes to the eighteen-year-old girl I once was, who found a rhythm in her march, conviction in the fire within, and rejuvenation in the torrential downpour. I’d like to imagine that at that moment I’d chuckle and smile, open an umbrella, and give a response that entails some version of “Oh, yeah?”, but at this moment, facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on — through the fire and through the rain — until victory is won.