Allow this reflection on the onset of journeying with Frederick Douglass to be the opening line of a sonata. I’ll introduce a theme in its simplest form here only to be revisited, experimented with, hidden, transposed, modified, and returned to at the conclusion. The thread of melody that plays throughout the life of Frederick Douglass is the wit, wisdom, and woo of his words. His biographer prepares the reader, “Douglass was a man of words; words spoken and written language was the only major weapon of protest, persuasion, or power that he ever possessed. Throughout I try to demonstrate the origins and growth of this man’s amazing facility to find the words to explain America’s racial condition as well as the human condition. In one way, this book is the biography of a voice” (Blight, Frederick Douglass, xvii.)
In the beginning was the Word. Jesus’ most beloved disciple winsomely chose the opening of his story of Good News to reflect a new day by looking at the first day. The Word, not the Power, nor the Judge, was in the beginning. The Word broke the silence through the mouth of the Father booming, “Let there be light.” The verbal pronouncement followed, “It was good.” As the Trinity spoke order from chaos, so the verbal theme continues. Our faith comes through hearing, hearing the word of God. Heralding a Message, a Gospel. She who has ears, let her hear. While our message is an embodied message, a physical message, a holistic massage, our message is irreducibly just that – a message, a tapestry told through words.
The same words that formed order from chaos, are those same words Douglass attempted to yield to convert his bodily scars into words that might change the world (60). Words that would change the world. For Douglass words “had become a reason to live” (55). While a lifetime holds much more than the 280 character limit, our words are finite, because our time is finite. This restricted constraint gives reason to consider in this co-creative endeavor the potency of our words. Words matter, for out of the heart, a person speaks. Life-giving, restorative, reparative words are the inevitable mark of one who has been impacted by the Word. Might they not be in such short supply as today’s stage gives evidence.
Words create possibilities where chaos reigns
Words create possibilities
David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018).