In remembrance of those who went before us and who helped forge our futures.

PASSAGES By Jill Burrows

Today, we trod on hallowed ground, following
in the footprints of those who preceded
us, and who – like angels – are with us now.

The mother, who during her ship’s passage from
Africa here, in desperation, clasped her baby to her
breast, and jumped overboard, to be re-born.
The multitudes brought here against their will
whose lives were bartered on the auction
block, and to whom we owe a debt.

Later, the brave men and women – five million
strong – who made the pilgrimage to the big city,
trading sweltering hot cotton fields for warm
kitchens and steamy ship yards. Who shoveled
the coat, and stoked the fires that kept America’s
engines going, and who fuel our thoughts.

The dreamers who picked up whatever was at hand,
the anvil, the banjo, and the pen, to chronicle and
transcend their experience. Bodies moving to
the sounds of bebop and jazz – conjuring up images
and prose that ignited a Harlem Renaissance,
allowing our collective soul to soar.

And the prophets of change, whose lonely cry in the dark,
turned into a strident voice by day. Their pleas melding
in harsh harmony with the supplicants – who on bended
knee – raised their voices in hymn and prayer, beseeching
the justice that eluded them in their own lifetime, and whose
praises we sing.

And although you lie silent now – like the lighted candle
placed in a window well for the weary traveler on the
Underground – your spirits continue to guide us,
a constant North Star.