March On, Sisters

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A_Kelley2

In the brickyards of Egypt the Hebrew men worked under harsh taskmasters under the directive of a hard-hearted Pharaoh.

In the waters of The Great Nile Hebrew boys drowned under the death edict of the same man, afraid the ferocious fertility of the slaves would overpower them otherwise.

The original task of infanticide was handed to the midwives; they were instructed to kill all the boys on the birth stool.

But the women conspired together, bringing both boys and girls to into the world and to their mother’s breast—quickly, quietly.

Pharaoh summoned the midwives and interrogated them. They stood together and spoke with one voice, “The Hebrew women are so fast and strong, they almost deliver the children themselves!”

They walked into their township with relief, finally able to exhale. Their covert work remained concealed (and celebrated by all the Hebrew mothers).

* * *

The Daughter of Egypt took a ritual cleansing in the Great River. She noticed she wasn’t alone in the waters and reached for the raft tangled in the tall reeds.

She knew before she heard his cry, this was a Hebrew boy destined to die. But she and her nervous handmaids drew him out of the water toward safety in her arms.

Miriam, the boy’s sister, came out of hiding and offered to find a nursemaid for the Egyptian princess. Together they conspired in the form of a wet-nurse contract with the Hebrew mother.

The boy traveled back across the Nile under the imperial protection of the princess. She would make common cause with these women and raise this son under the roof and nose of her father.

The boy would be nursed on the milk and lullabies of one mother on the far shore of the river. He would come of age on the other shore learning wisdom and war strategies from another mother.

The women wielded a subversive strength, an unshakable solidarity to keep this boy alive. Hebrew and Egyptian, young and old, privileged and enslaved they partnered across the Great River.

* * *

Burundian women from neighborhoods nestled high in the safety of the hills and those mired in the poverty of the slums come together to protest the violence that erupted across their capital city. Arm in arm, stride by stride, they resisted the death visited upon their sons. No one expected the women to demonstrate such agency, least of all the police with machine guns slung over their shoulders and tear gas canisters in their fists. Mothers, sisters, aunties and wives made their way to the city center in defiance of the police order while singing praise songs.

Black mothers grieved the loss of their black sons together. Suffering the sharp edge of racism and police brutality they stood together with arms interlocked. Their wailing cut through the noise of news cycle. Their boys were buried six feet under yet these women raised the volume of their voice. They resisted silence–and isolation.

Even now these mothers stand at the ready. They rush to the side of other mothers when their sons fall prey to the hatred, the prejudice, the claws of white supremacy. They’ve learned that lament is communal. They refuse to accept platitudes—they protest the injustice.

Young black women take to the streets of Ferguson—then New York City, Baltimore and Chicago. They declare #BlackLivesMatter and take to social media to get their message to my suburban street. In concert they unmask how whiteness works; how African American communities are fractured by unjust systems and whites are bound by the cords of their own privilege. These women remind me of women from the past–other mothers, other organizers, other artists who walked across bridges for freedom. Women have always known the power of their collective voice.

* * *

Pharaoh didn’t see the women as a force to be reckoned with, he didn’t see them at all. He focused on the muscular threat and missed the subversive strength of women–and they upended his Empire.

He made the mistake many do—thinking women are feckless and fractured, unable to mount a serious threat to their empires of death, racism and violence. They’re wrong.

When women move together in solidarity we move mountains of silence, break chains of injustice and topple regimes of death. We become sisters who marshal strength on behalf of our communities.

We cross boundaries to comfort to the bereaved, to save our sons, to gestate life wherever we can. We cry in lament and sing out freedom songs, we lead the victory parade with our drums.

We are a liberating force and we follow in the footsteps of Miriam, Dorothy Day, Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, Bree Newsom and many others who call us to come together and march toward justice.

We march to end slavery, join hands to dismantle white supremacy and disarm xenophobia. Together we will rescue girls in India from infanticide, cut the infant mortality rate in Haiti and Burundi.

* * *

The pharaonic forces of death don’t see us coming–they seldom do. But we march in solidarity—sisters committed to God’s liberation for our children, our neighborhoods and each other.

1. Wherever you live is probably Egypt.
2. There is a better place, a Promised Land.
3. The way to the land is through the wilderness.

“There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.” -Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

Latest posts by Kelley Nikondeha (see all)

Kelley Nikondeha
  • Pingback: March On, Sisters | Kelley Nikondeha()

  • Sherry Naron

    I’m marching right alongside you!

  • Breathtaking journey from Old Testament truth to present day realities!
    Powerful!

  • What encouragement – thank you, Kelley! I especially loved this: “When women move together in solidarity we move mountains of silence, break chains of injustice and topple regimes of death. We become sisters who marshal strength on behalf of our communities.” What a rally-cry.

  • Bravo!!!!

  • pastordt

    Yes!!!

  • Leah Kostamo

    Coming to this a bit late. Wow — so powerful. I love the interplay between the ancient and modern. And this line: “Women have always known the power of their collective voice.” gave me chills!

  • Saskia Wishart

    Oh this is powerful Kelley “When women move together in solidarity we move mountains of silence, break chains of injustice and topple regimes of death.” I love how you continually find new ways to bring the Exodus story ALIVE with new perspectives. Thank you for this.

  • Pingback: Devotions Out of Egypt | Kelley Nikondeha()