In my community, Paterson, there are nearly a dozen powerful, positive and newsworthy events every day, but sometimes the gravity of the bad news give us considerable pause. We aren’t able to celebrate those things that make us great due to some warped respect for tragedy.
Paterson, a city having a decided renaissance, has a sullied reputation for things that have actually occurred in our borders because we don’t celebrate our positive aspects enough. Recent weekends have been so packed with positive events that people have renewed the conversation about an active community calendar.
Exactly a month ago, the historic Calvary Baptist Church held a Jazz luncheon and a brown bag lunch give away while Jakki Benson held a tulle skirt event for hundreds of women at the National Historic Great Falls, the Classic Riderz Car Club held the Poetry in Motion Car show at the Paterson Poetry Festival, the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community led by great American Poet Marian Gillan held a Poetry reading and workshop, the first ever Maria Mazziotti Gillan Literary Service Award was presented to Annemarie Vannatta, the Eastside Home association held a historic home tour, and two people were shot to death—— one of them a child. Consequently, even with all the positivity, we remained silent due to our respect for tragedy.
It is natural to pause for tragedy. Many of us think that it is disrespectful to mourning families to celebrate anything at the onset of their grieving. The truth is that we are all mourning with the immediate family. The loss belongs to all of us.
It is easy to give attention to negativity involving law enforcement because we want to and should hold them accountable for their actions. Negative stories about the police in our headlines hurt all of us. The best thing for us to do is help law enforcement to improve their practices so that we have zero instances excessive force, brutalities, or deaths. It is so much better for our daily experiences with law enforcement when our engagements include summer camps and Teen Summits like those hosted by Community Policing this past summer.
We need to know how to keep ourselves safe from the litany of uncivilized behaviors that a small fraction of community commit, but we also need to know about all of the things that we do exceptionally well.
Would you be happy to know that the scholars at Rosa L. Parks Fine and Performing Arts are creating beauty every day? Would it please you to learn that Hispanic Heritage Month inspired hundreds of children to celebrate in full color? Don’t you want to know about how the superintendent and school board plan to achieve local control and how you can help? Aren’t you excited about Gilmore Memorial Preschool expanding their reach to include even more high performing scholars?
Is there any better news than the projects, businesses, and opportunities that have recently been born in our city? Isn’t it incredible that everyday people like Paterson Cares, Mature Sisters, B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S of Paterson, Save the Village, Street Keepers, Rosa Parks Boulevard Community Garden and other grassroots organization make the decision to be the change they want to see in their community? Ordinary people in our city regularly convene for the purpose of cleaning up, or giving back. These are all worthy of celebrating. I’d like to see us all give ourselves permission to celebrate more than we complain. I’d like to see the news feed about our city look like a place that is a destination rather than something less inviting. I’d like us to be willing to look at our neighbor and say, “today is a good day!” I’d like us to hug someone and be reminded that we are not defined by our traumas.
We need to pause for traumas, but we also need to celebrate. We need to celebrate long and often.
There is Here
an original poem by Talena Lachelle Queen
I know them all.
I know the river.
I know the waterfall.
I know the cherry blossoms.
I know the sparrows' little call.
The news feed speaks nothing of these.
In the news there's a fire, again.
In the news there's corruption, again.
In the news there's scandal, again.
In the news there's this month's murders, again.
I know them all.
Beautiful things like
fireflies, citronella candles, BBQ
and soft serve ice cream deliveries
never make the news cycle;
are not newsworthy.
My mama's magical front stoop braids
are not the news.
The news is the reason
to cry, to mourn, to wish
for wings that can carry me
far from here;
Where I can know
the river and how to cross it;
Where I know
the feeling of waterfall mist
landing on my collarbone;
Where I can hold
the exact shade of cherry blossom pink
in both my memory and my hand;
Where the sparrow calls me by my name