Thursday, November 11, 2021

Rethinking Persevere is a Word

After reading this book, I thought again about what PERSEVERE could mean.

Rethinking Persevere is a Word

Persevere is a long word:

four hundred years long,

the distance of the Middle Passage,

the length of a ship’s hold, packed with bodies chained together.

And although persevere 

contains none of the letters that spell luck,

privilege shines through from beginning to end.

The privilege of tracing a blood line

for generation after unbroken generation 

in an ancestral story of ascension

rather than a lineage that dead-ends

in the shackles of slavery,

in lives with trauma encoded in the DNA,

in the knowledge that one’s existence

is not predicated on bootstraps

or an innocuous insistence to try again 

or the blithe assertion to summon grit

but instead dependent on ancestors who persevered

surviving horrors unimaginably severe

family members inhumanely severed from each other

per their owners’ whim.

Persevere is a light word for some,

a chirpy motivational poster word.

For others it is a heavy word,

a how-dare-you-assume word,

a claim-my-humanity,


lift-while-we-climb* word.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

*Angela Davis

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