Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Ezekiel 37:9-10

Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Now hear the word of the lord

Long before it was appropriated by children as a memorable ditty to learn anatomy, the song Dem Bones served as a powerful spiritual anthem recognizing oppression and racial injustice.

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Penned by African-American author James Weldon Johnson and his brother in the 1920s, the song references the biblical tale of the prophet Ezekiel, who resurrected his people in faith after they were dominated and exiled to the Valley of Dry Bones by the Babylonians.

Oh your toe bone connected to your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your heel bone
Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone

The feet are very powerful. With our toes connected to our heels connected to our ankles connected to our legs we can kick in anger or run in fear. We can also stand. Stand for what we believe in. Stand for what is right. Stand for what is good.

And if we can stand, we can also take a step forward.

Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone

Four years ago Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy when he joined his thigh and his hip to drop his knee to the ground during an NFL game to protest oppression, racial injustice, and police brutality. His message quickly became branded as un-American because he chose to drop that knee during the National Anthem. He was derided by loud, powerful voices and drubbed from the NFL for his protest.

I don’t think even Colin Kaepernick could foresee the physical exemplification of his protest by a white police officer on a restrained black man for a period of time in which the National Anthem could be sung over four times.

The knee bone should never be connected to the neck bone.

Your hip bone connected to your back bone
Your back bone connected to you shoulder bone

I joined a peaceful protest march in my small NJ town yesterday. I wore a face mask. It felt safe to be on the right side of the mask. It felt uplifting being with others. It made me feel human. It made me feel alive. It also made me want to cry.

I don’t really have a distinct voice among so many, but I have a backbone and I have shoulders. And I believe that in large numbers we can cover each other’s backs and lift a lot more onto our shoulders than we think is humanly possible.

I saw a little girl with red hair marching with her father. She was about seven or eight. She was holding a handmade sign over her shoulder scribbled with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Underneath was a purple and yellow flower supported on the back of a single green stem drawn in crayon.

I doubt she has had “the talk” about the potential hazards dealing with racist, hothead cops. She has red hair and doesn’t need it. But understanding is good to learn at any age. Maybe showing that her life is not beginning to end means that black lives can cease to needlessly end.

The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone

The neck is segmented into triangular regions defined by the muscles which criss cross it. The twenty-six muscles of the neck enable us to hold our heads high.

These muscles also protect the arteries that feed the head bone when it becomes connected. They protect our windpipe and even lift the rib cage when necessary to assist the flow of life-giving oxygen into our lungs. When these neck muscles are compressed by trauma, additional muscles above the neck move our jaws so we can cry “I can’t breathe” before we lose consciousness and die of asphyxiation.

The neck bone connected to the head bone
Now hear the word of the lord.

Herein lies the problem. The head bone is what makes us all different, despite the fact that we are all the same dry bones. The head bone is filled with gooey emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, and anger which are triggered by experiences and attitudes and values and perceptions that ultimately move all of our bones once they are connected.

The head bone gives us choice in a valley that also gives us freedom.

Ezekiel can connect our bones, but it is up to us to walk out together.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
Now hear the word of the lord.