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Heartache and Inspiration

Sep 30, 2020
Heartache and Inspiration

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S.—The Most Vital and Challenging Issue (June 2020)
Faculty: Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, Anthony Outler, Chitra Golestani, Emily Tancredi-Brice Agbenyega, Niki Daniels

Editor’s Note: What follows are excerpts from JoAnn Nadeau’s learning self-assessment, and a poem she wrote titled When Angels Weep. This was JoAnn’s first Wilmette Institute course.

“I have learned so much but more importantly, I have so many resources to use and a list of excellent books to read. I have been meeting with three women who are in the class and we are writing weekly, with a few plans of how to share what we are writing.”

The Prison Industrial Complex. “I learned so much about mass incarceration and the way the prison system depends on a new form of enslaving people. I learned about microaggressions and the lasting damage they inflict on their victims. I have a better understanding of “systemic racism” and its effects on generations of African Americans for 12 generations. I learned the way many African American Bahá’ís feel invisible and unheard in their communities and have for a long time, and what I as a white Bahá’í need to do according to Shoghi Effendi.”

New skills and attitudes. “I have gained confidence in starting and sustaining conversations about racism in our country. I will continue to work on finding quotes and statistics that will strengthen my knowledge while providing the Bahá’í perspective on the oneness of humanity.”

“The voices of those in the course and on the videos we watched brought me heartache but also inspiration at the resilience and strength of many.”

Future plans. “I am currently facilitating a book group and hope to continue with another book. I hope to use my writings to inform others of some of the stories and incidents that appear in the news and then are forgotten. I hope to consult with my local Bahá’í group on how we can share the recent message on racial justice and race unity from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the U.S. (we already began the discussion).”

When Angels Weep

“To look around the United States today
is enough to make prophets and angels weep.”

James Baldwin

A mother cries.
Cries for her child.
Angels are crying too.
Tears fall down from heaven
washing the dark stain of injustice
from the street of one more American town.

Black Mothers come together.
A call has gone out.
A call for troop support
in a war without a name.
A wave of women arrive.
They surround one of their own
while angel wings carry a child Home.

Mothers sit together holding hands.
Prayers are spoken in hushed tones.
Sounds of spirituals singing out
well-loved words.
Music that surrounds them.
Lifts them like on angel wings
to say goodbye.
Another child is gone.

Prophets write words of warning.
Prophets speak of blood in the streets.
Prophets cry
when sons and daughters die too young.
Not in battle.
Not in war.
Simply for the color of their skin.

Mothers rise across our fine country.
Ready to go when the call rings out.
The death knell rings again.
Angels take flight.
Prophets gaze at the mountaintop
watching for a sign.
A sign that Justice
like the Prodigal Son
Has found the way home.



JoAnn Nadeau

I became a Bahá’í with my husband in the '70's. We raised our three children on Cape Cod in Massachusetts where I taught preschool for over 20 years. I am retired and enjoy traveling to the West Coast to visit my daughters and grandchildren. I began writing after my husband passed and I retired in 2017. I write mostly essays and more recently began writing poetry.

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