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Chains.

Shackles.

Boundaries.

Wired fence.

Steel wall.

Holding onto my head with both hands,
heart beating fast as I did all I could to keep from crying,
grasping for a breath,
I began to dance and march with force belting out::

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose!

Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you?

Cause I need freedom too!

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

Shout out to Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar for writing lyrics that can set those of us who are weary of the ongoing injustices free!

I have grown tired from the news cycles where child migrants are being abused and evening dying after being separated from their parents and placed into cages. I am beyond sick of my Black brothers and sisters being profiled in their gated communities, while driving their purchased luxury vehicles; while making telephone calls in the lobby of their hotel, waiting for a Lyft inside their apartment complex, taking a nap on their college campus, or a little girl selling bottled water to help pay for a trip to Disney–and the list goes on. At times it appears that people of color are living in America with an invisible noose around our necks. If we move too far to the left or right, or move too far ahead, the loop will tighten to remind us that we are not truly free.

Tweetable: #WhenYouDontKnowWhatToDo “Sing Out. March On!” @harmonycolumbus “Live free!” @GailDudley [Article first appeared in the winter 2019 issue of READY Publication by Gail Dudley, co-founder.]

Unable to fully articulate my frustration of witnessing the ever-present divide between race, social-economic status, class, and ethnicity, an opportunity was made available. During our annual mentorship initiative, we received media credentials, along with several tickets for our high school writing students as well as our READY Publication team mentors, to attend the Harmony Project event, “Sing Out. March On!”

The Harmony Project began in 2009, inviting people who had a desire to sing, to create what the director David Brown says is “the sound of the community, if we all started singing together.” Eighty-five people came together to form the community choir in Columbus, Ohio which began this journey. Nine years later there are over 500 adult voices plus an additional 300 children, youth, and teens singing. Their focus is building the community–the community that they want to live in, where every voice is heard and everyone has a responsibility to give back to the community. Each person who desired to sing as a part of Harmony Project in 2018 had to complete a minimum of 16 hours of community service. That totals over 60,000 hours of volunteer service within one year.

Together they serve regardless of the color of one’s face, one’s age or stage in life. Even if only for one cold evening in December, I was able to capture a glimpse of greater possibilities on the horizon of a decrease in the divide. I had captured some hope to hold onto, trusting that something was shifting the atmosphere.

How can Harmony Project become the forefront of a movement on a national level that could transform a global constituency, I wondered. It begins with one step at a time. One subdivision at a time. One community at a time. “You’re not responsible for fixing it all. You’re only responsible for fixing the part you can,” says David.

That’s it! We can all experience freedom by accepting the responsibility for fixing only the parts that we can. Our purpose is not to fix everything and everybody. Everything that comes across Twitter by the one in the Oval Office does not need a reply. Every news commentator who reports their point of view should not compel us to jump on or off the bandwagon. Believe it or not, everything that starts with  “breaking news” is not worth losing sleep over. Blood pressures are high. Anxiety is overwhelming people. There is great potential to redirect that energy into helping build and fixing our immediate communities.

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There was a moment for me that night, when it all made sense. The Harmony Project youth dancers danced to the song by Beyoncé, featuring Kendrick Lamar, entitled Freedom. Yes! This is the song quoted above. It’s time to experience authentic freedom, which means it is time to address the injustices in our immediate spheres of influence. Freedom means to raise my voice. Freedom means to become a part of the larger community without asking permission. Freedom means to become equipped with tools and resources to stand up for my brothers and sisters. Freedom means to exercise my right to vote. Freedom means to march without getting tired. Freedom means that I cannot quit on myself.

Tryna rain, tryna rain on the thunder

Tell the storm I’m new

I’mma walk and march on the regular

Painting white flags blue

Lord forgive me, I’ve been running

Running blind in truth

I’ma rain, I’ma rain on this bitter love

Tell the sweet I’m new

I’m telling these tears, “Go and fall away, fall away”

May the last one burn into flames

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose!

Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you?

Cause I need freedom too!

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

Join the conversation. How do you ensure that you never quit especially when God has called you to do something even when it appears difficult?

***This article first appeared in the winter 2019 issue of READY Publication by Gail Dudley, co-founder.***

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