This morning I am prompted to ponder home and a homeland. What is home but that place and space where you put your feet and your lay your head and you find your stuff that you find meaningful and you can breathe. What is a homeland but a larger space and place where the ebb and flow and the people and the symbols and the language and its history connect with you in a deep sense and you say something or say maybe nothing at all that this is my homeland and these are my people and what I value most is found here.
Forever and a day I have had these yearnings for a home and a homeland. Even when we were away from our homeland, I found myself feeling most secure and at peace when we owned the brick and the mortar and the grass and the trees and found a place to come home to at the end of a long sojourn elsewhere. Home necessarily included the people inside the house which was a home which was grounded in space and time. Familiarity and predictability of the coming and the going and who was there and when they were not there things were all out of sync and had no rhythm or rhyme.
I think that is why amongst other things the story of Eddie and Dorothy Wise moves me so. They met on the campus of Howard. Their connection was almost immediate. He yearned for home with chickens and dogs and pigs, lots of pigs. His home became her home and his homeland became their homeland.
Their story of struggle is well chronicled in a large document over in my filing cabinet. Edward and I wrote about them in 2008, and now here in 2017, we are hearing about them again and again because their story is so compelling that we cannot ignore it. It is told in all of its brutality on national radio. The interviewer with his penetrating questions, Eddie with his strong voice, and eventually Eddie with his gentle voice in the nursing home where Dorothy with her weak voice accepts the cookie and drink that Eddie has brought for his “Brown Sugar.”
Not their home. In a place of not their home. She died in a place not their home.
Their home had been taken away by the misdeeds of people with agendas that were clear to them and clear to Eddie and Dorothy. Eddie and Dorothy did not have the power or the place to change the course of those events. Those people who made those decisions had the power and the pen and the position and the system to make things work for those folks but not for those folks.
And then their home was no more. They were driven from it by a large group of uniformed and armed men. Uniformed and armed men who have no claim to the land and home driving people from the land and their home who have a legitimate claim to the land and the home.
Yes. Today I am pondering home and its meanings and why it is so important to me. I am also pondering such for people who have to fight and scratch and claw to hold on to their home and homeland.
I do not know of such deeper things. Such matters are beyond my experience. They are not beyond my ability to imagine and to empathize. And when I do move into that space, my blood runs cold, my heart is ripped out, and my beliefs in justice and its righteous causes confirmed, and my conviction that there are people in power who have darkness in their hearts and they play the cold cruel songs of systemic racism.
And people are driven from their homes.
And then it was taken away. The big boys with big guns and big pieces of paper came and drove them away. They asserted themselves into a home that was not their own but they had the power of the paper and the writing on the paper to usher the folks who were at home out of their home and into a cheap motel, one which they could afford. Four walls, close quarters, concrete parking lot. A place to stay but not a home. A place to lay the head for some indeterminable length of time until things changed. Not their home but a place they stayed until they stayed there no more.
Then Dorothy died.
What does Eddie call home now?