Hope is a song in a weary throat.
Give me a song of hope
And a world where I can sing it.
Give me a song of faith
And a people to believe in it.
Give me a song of kindliness
And a country where I can live it.
Give me a song of hope and love
And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.
Selection from Pauli Murray’s “Dark Testament, Verse 8”
The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray has plenty of accolades to commend her: a friend to prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Bayard Rustin. A civil rights lawyer whose magisterial States’ Laws on Race and Color (1951) was called the “bible” for civil rights’ legislators by none other than Thurgood Marshall. The first Black person perceived as a woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest in 1977.
I find myself drawn to their creative writing, though. Murray’s poems leave an indelible mark, and their family history, Proud Shoes (1956), is a book to which I return often when I think about what it means to tell the American story. Murray is a figure that represents so much to so many, and yet their story is undeniably human — which is to say that Murray cannot be reduced to whatever aspect of their identity we would like to emphasize at any given moment. In a world where we paint our public saints and heroes with a broad brush, Murray’s witness invites us to delve deeper.
On Saturday, May 21, St. Paul’s parishioners are invited to take part in a traveling performance through Durham’s West End neighborhood, the home of Murray and her ancestors. You can sign up here if you’d like to attend—only a few spots left!
Liberating God, we thank you for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from the chains of prejudice and fear, that we may show forth the reconciling love and true freedom which you revealed in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey