Deep River is an annual series of evenings focused on exploring African American & African Diaspora musical forms. In 2021, the series took as its theme African American Art Songs, which is an historically underrepresented art form, performed by historically underrepresented artists. Our Associate Rector, The Rev. Anthony C. Estes, provided a closing reflection and prayer each week. This is his offering from March 17th. Additional context provided at the bottom of the page.
Reflection – The Reverend Anthony C. Estes – 3/17/2021
While studying in Atlanta, I stumbled into a place where black women and black men were singing and dancing and drinking and laughing. I had never been to a place like that before. And though my piety wouldn’t dare grant me reprieve enough to join in the revelry, I stood transfixed amidst it all. I watched in wonder. The wonder that is black joy. The wonder that is black bodies dancing and whirling on their feet after a long day of working on lines or standing in them. It was dark in there, so much so that it was hard to tell people apart. As if only in blackness could the distinctions of persons be invisible. Yet, some are threatened by Black joy. They hate the Black Wall Streets and Black Bottoms, those who are rich but black, or those who are poor yet happy.
And the enemies of joy are easy to hate.
But the key to continuous joy, the hope in sharing black joy with all people, I think, is to not late the hate in. To keep dancing in the dusty aftermaths of demolished dreams. To be, as the Preacher King says, “integrated with yourself.” To know deep within that though we are all made of dust and return to dust, we are not dirty. We are not soiled, we are not poor, we are not lost causes, and we don’t have to dance to the same old tunes just because the jukebox is playing. We don’t deny or whitewash the past. We adjust our discerning eyes to the light of truth. We don’t deny the brutality of the lynching tree, because we see upon Calvary’s tree the One who died for the sake of love and for love’s sake didn’t stay dead. We know the power of pale evenings and the nightmares can follow, but we also see that it never stays night too long. And that’s why we can keep singing and dancing in the dark.
God of all life, you are the source of the deep river of love that flows in every person and unites us in community. Our apathy, ignorance, and resistance dams it, and love does not flow freely within us or from us. Forgive us for not discerning your gifts. Deliver us from thinking that love is about sentiment when it is really about sacrifice. Help us unstop the river of love and help us be beloved community where all may share in joy and love and song. Amen.
While the performances captured during Deep RIver 2021 may not be available for viewing, you may still reference the program for your own research. Deep River March 17 2021
Dream Variations, by Langston Hughes; Brandon Spencer, Composer
To fling my arms wide in some place of the sun, to whirl and to dance till the white day is done. Then rest at cool evening beneath a tall tree while night comes on gently, dark like me– that is my dream! To fling my arms wide in the face of the sun, dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done. Rest at pale evening… A tall, slim tree…night coming tenderly black like me.
Difficulties from Songs of Love and Justice, by Adolphus Hailstork. Based on texts of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is difficult to like some people. Like is sentimental. It is difficult to like someone bombing your home; it is difficult to like someone threatening your children! It is difficult, so difficult, to like some people. But Jesus says: “Love them”, for love is greater than like.