Writing in a Time of Peril 3.26.2020

The US CDC reported 54,453 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases (10,270 new) and 737 deaths (193 new) nationwide on March 25. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 69,246 US cases and 1,046 deaths as of noon EDT on March 26. 85, 991 and 1,271 deaths representing 534 new deaths as of 9:00 pm EST 3.26.20 20.

Most African Americans of Christian heritage were taught selected stories from the Bible. My Sunday school was no different. One series of stories taught was from Exodus. The enslavement of the Israelites. The edict to kill all Israelite infants. Moses in the bulrushes. Moses found and adopted into the royal family. Moses fled into the desert. God spoke directly to Moses and charged him with liberating the Israelites. 

The story of people living in cruelest slavery and being liberated echoed the experiences as our elders during American slavery. In most African American churches, we sang the story. 

When Israel was in Egypt’s land
Let my people go
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand
Let my people go

Go down, Moses
Way down in Egypt’s land
Tell old Pharaoh
Let my people go

–Traditional Negro Spiritual 

To force Ramses to free the Israelites, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt. He turned the Nile into blood, sent swarms of frogs, and infestations of lice, pestilence, and boils. He  rained fire and ice and, finally, full darkness upon the land. When Ramses didn’t relent, God communicated his intent to kill all of the first born sons of Egypt. He also gave Israelites strict instructions. Stay indoors after placing the blood of young lambs or goats on their doors. It was in that way that God would know what households to visit with death. Only after that last terrible threat was understood, did Ramses relent and let the Israelites go. Moses gathered the Israelites and they fled. But, Ramses changed  his mind and chased after the Israelites with his mighty army. The Israelites found themselves trapped by the Red Sea. Pharos army was almost upon them when, God parted the sea and allowed the Israelites to pass. When Pharaoh’s Army pursued them onto the sea bed, Pharaoh’s army drowned. Most African American churches sang this event into song as well.

Oh Mary Don’t You Weep 

Moses stood on the Red Sea shore
Smotin’ the water with a two by four,
Pharaoh’s Army got drownded,
Oh Mary don’t you weep.

Oh Mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan 

Oh Mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan,
Pharaoh’s Army got drownded,
Oh Mary don’t you weep.

The Lord told Moses what to do
To lead those Hebrew children through,

Oh Mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan 
Oh Mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan,
Pharaoh’s Army got drownded,
Oh Mary don’t you weep.

–Traditional Pre–Civil War Negro Spiritual

Even though, I no longer attend church services other than weddings, baptisms, funerals, and family gatherings, this story and these songs have been falling with me into sleep and awakening me two morning in a row. Now, please understand, I have just rendered to you my Sunday school memories of the stories of Exodus. I don’t vouch for strict scripture accuracy. That said, while I didn’t question it as a child or as an young adult, I find it  very disturbing that Pharaohs and God killed whole generations of children for whatever reason. 

We are being given guidance and required, by some state and local governments, and public health official, to prepare for and live through an apocalyptic virus that we do not have immunity, treatments, and vaccines for. I try to grasp the enormity of Covid–19 by combining what I remember of and what my elders told me about slavery, our liberation, The Recontruction Era, WWI, The Red Summer, the 1919 Influenza Pandemic, the Great Depression, and WWII. I seed my dreams to ask my elders how they survived privation, separation, and the deaths of so many, while doing their part to care for themselves, their neighbors, and their country. 

The Passover story resonates with me, because the Israelites were told how to survive true existential events and how to celebrate their survival when those threats passed. 

African American had a song for our  survival celebrations.

How I got over,
how I got over,
my soul looks back and wonders
how I got over.

_ Clara Ward 1950

All this is to say, I’ve been searching for prospective, for wisdom, for reassurance, and for survival skills and tools for what is already here and still coming. 

And, I’m looking out my window and observing clear–blue skies, a few pencil-thin-wispy clouds, blue birds and sparrows scratching for and finding grubs, my neighbors taking walks and waving as I sit and write in our study that faces our street. I’m going down my to-do list of selfcare: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there a very few people about. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear and rage into expression, action and art. 

I put on Liz Wright’s, Fellowship album. I listen to the whole album, but I repeat, “Presence of the Lord,” whenever it comes on. 

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA



Writing in the Time of Peril: 3.25.2020

The US CDC reported 33,404 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 400 deaths nationwide on March 23, more than double the number of cases reported on Friday and just shy of twice the reported deaths. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 46,485 US cases and 591 deaths as of 8:45 am on March 24. 53,000 cases, and 755 deaths as of 6 pm PST; 59,000 confirmed cases, 3,000 more than the day before and 809 deaths, 55 more than the day before on March 25. 11:00 am PST. 

–”I am living smart, listening to the President, the CDC guidelines like all people should, but I am not living in fear of Covid-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country. And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in

Older people would rather die than let Covid-19 harm US economy Texas official, Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick tells Fox News: ‘Do we have to shut down the entire country for this? I think we can get back to work.’

Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick is expressing and broadcasting something most doctors, scientists, and medical ethicists critically important about how Elderly, Vulnerable and Othered populations will be treated in these Covid-19 times. Italy has expressing and enacting their form of medical care rationing that targets the elderly for non-treatment. 

Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick articulated what scientists, doctors and medical ethicists have been loath to give voice to. That the scarcity of planning, resources, coordination, and excellent science will present political and medical professionals with choices about whose life is worthy of giving access to medical care, worthy of saving, and valuable enough to expend finite resources on. 

Patrick gives expression to a message that demands that his target populations, that is, elders like myself specifically, should sacrifice our lives for those lives deemed more viable and valuable. The lives of the poor, the homeless, people living with disabilities, asylum seekers, immigrants, people of color, and elders could be deemed less worthy to receive life-saving interventions. First responders, doctors, nurses, and essential workers, and too many others, may well become expendable as well. Even with a highly efficient, functioning, and well–coordinated government resources to address the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors and medical administrators will be making decisions about who will live and who will die based on the scarcity of resources. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/25/coronavirus-patients-do-not-resucitate/

Let me be perfectly clear, I will not sacrifice my life nor the lives of my neighbors nor poor people nor homeless people nor people living with disabilities nor critically ill people nor people being cared for in nursing homes and living in elder housing, nor people in ICE detention facilities and detention camps, nor children in juvenile residential and detention facilities, nor people in mental health facilities, nor people in jails and prisons nor first responders nor all essential workers. All of our lives are worthy.

I will fight with every breath in my body to save and preserve my life, the lives of my family, my friends, my communities, my nation and my world. I will keep connected to, support, show up & stand up for all of us to constantly pursue our own and each other’s equal and inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

I am not afraid today. I’m going down my to-do list of selfcare: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there a very few people about. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear and rage into expression, action and art. I put on Tracy Chapman’s Where You Live album. I listen to the whole album, but I repeat, “Would You Change,” whenever it comes on. 

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA



Writing in a Time of Peril: 3.24.2020

The US CDC reported 33,404 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 400 deaths nationwide on March 23, more than double the number of cases reported on Friday and just shy of twice the reported deaths. 

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 46,485 US cases and 591 deaths as of 8:45am on March 24. 53,000 cases and 755 deaths as of 6 pm PST.

–DJT “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem.” 3.23.24

Covid-19 feels like a combination of the Influenza Pandemic of 1919, The Great Depression, WWII, and the white supremacist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, elitist, gaslighting, greedy, self-serving, self-dealing, and narcissistic leadership of Orange Julius. 

I didn’t live through the 1919 Influenza Pandemic or the Great Depression or WWII, but my grandparents lived through all three and my parents lived through WWII. They told us stories of sacrifice, rationing, long lines, many deaths, everyone pitching in, even though all of the social ills and inequities still existed. Our household was always frugal, our pantry was stocked with vegetables and fruit we canned in season to help feed us in the lean and poor times. We sewed most of our own clothes. We had kitchen gardens and our family living in rural areas grew a lot of our food. Our family members hunted and fished to augment our food. We cooked most everything from scratch. During my childhood, in the 1950’s, there were still shortages of things. Butter was not served in my home until my late teens. Margarine was still the cheapest and most abundant butter substitute. 

I’m having a pentimento experience. A new image of my experience since Orange Julius’ campaign and inauguration is being painted over by these Covid-19 times. Eerily familiar images swim below the surface. A campaign and presidency awash with hate mongering, departmental purging and replacing career civil servants with acting political appointees with little experience of their posts. The current administration, dismantling the provisions of legislation for the ACA, environmental rule, voting rights provisions, assaults on immigrants and children, the passing of a lavish tax break for the rich, while burdening the most vulnerable and under-resourced. 

A painting of the previous three years of the current administration are illumed from beneath by new images being painted over by daily briefings by the World Health Organization, the CDC, an array of medical and public health professionals, and Orange Julius. The current wrench today, Orange Julius wants to eliminate, not increase, containment and social distancing to get people back to work to save the economy, i.e., big business, not individual people, regions, and nation. I experience Orange Julius to be about glowing PR for his presidency and his re-lection, rather than preserving and saving our lives. He appears to favor having billions of dollars to be able to dole out to himself and his family or curry loyalty and favor with, rather that provide resources for American citizens to meet the urgent, life threatening demands presented by Covid-19. 

The admonition to the American Public has been that we not panic. However, I experience Orange Julius as constantly panicked and now his hair is on fire as he burns through science-based professional spokespeople, i.e., Deborah Brix, Alex Azar, and now Anthony Fauci, because Covid-19 requires containment, shelter in place, universal testing, access to the entire treasury for a minimum of two months. 

Like the wicked witch of the west, Evillene, singing “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News,” in the musical, The Wiz, Orange Julius demands only the news that will profit him or burnish his image. She has a vulnerability, though. She’s allergic to water and she melts when a bucket is splashed on her. Orange Julius is allergic to authenticity & faithfulness & fidelity & trustworthiness, in one word, Orange Julius is allergic to truth.

Responsible and accountable legislation is trying mightily to emerge from the congress. 

I go down my to-do list of selfcare: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there a very few people about. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Play games and laugh a lot. When I smell hair on fire, I ask myself to look in the mirror and see, that I realize the hair of fire is not mine. Channel fear and rage into expression, action and art. 

I put on The Wiz album and continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


Practice Writing in Joy! Yes, Even in a Time of Peril

A Sample Morning Write Practice

  • What is before you to write today                        10 min            7:10


  • Write                                                                          30 min            7:40
  • Read Out Loud                                                         10 min            7:50
  • Revise                                                                        30 min            8:20
  • Break                                                                          15 min            8:35                             
  • Continue Morning Write                                       30 min            9:05
  • Read Out Loud                                                         10 min            9:15
  • Revise & End  Morning Write                              5 min         9:30
  • Name, Save, & Share (if it would delight you)

Self–Care: Make time to eat a healthily as you desire for yourself, drink water, coffee or tea, take a walk or go to the gym, find a great spot at home or at a library to write. Yes, take care of your family & work chores & obligations preserve a daily writing practice time as a dedicated and secured time for your health and creative self. 

Daily–Weekly–Biweekly Writing Practices

  • Read critically in the genres that feed your writing
  • Write critically about what you read. At least one double spaced page for each book you read.
  • Attend virtual storytelling, readings and lectures
  • Take virtual classes & workshops 
  • Send your work out into the world, yes, get your work published. 
  • Consume writing publications, such as, Poets and Writers, for writing opportunities, such as, virtual retreats, readings, lectures, and places to send your work for possible publication. 

Create a Writing Practice in Community:

Continue to find writing partners and writing community 

  • Learn from, get and receive support for your writing and your writing self, 
  • Share your work, get your writing workshopped in environments that are maximally supportive of your writing and your creative self.
  • Zoom, Skype, Phone, & Snail Mail

Where’s the Joy you ask?

It is in the going down into dreaming

In the just before coming to wakefulness

In the remembered sound or scent or voice or shape or movement that finds itself finely rendered on the page

In the child’s voice come to life or a mother’s or father or lovers voice

In something malevolent, just maybe, a voice or vision that refused to be seen and known before you created it on the page

In the perfect description of wind on water or dry lightning or the scent of tea cake and gardenias or the taste of ripe just picked strawberries or the sweat of a laborer or the quiet breathing of a sleeping child

In the listener or reader smiling in understanding, memory, connection or in gasp, as they see, hear, feel the delicious passion or danger or the terrible truth about to be revealed

In capturing a truth about a place, a time, a person, a people, a thing that mattered

In writing the perfect word or sentence or paragraph or chapter. 

In being our writer selves….

In writing into that word, thought, emotion, time about what will happen next…..

Be in Writing Joy!

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA



Writing in a Time of Peril: 3.23.2020

March 20, 2020

The US CDC reported 10,442 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 150 deaths nationwide. This represents a 48.3% increase in reported cases and a 54.6% increase in deaths from the day before.

March 23, 2020

The US CDC reported 15,219 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths nationwide. This represents a 45.7% increase in reported cases and a 34% increase in deaths from Thursday to Friday. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 35,345 US cases and 473 deaths as of 10:30am on March 23. 

My home, in Rio Vista, California, is surrounded by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Deltas. We must cross at least three bridges in every direction over lush wetlands and rivers to get to an interstate highway. My partner asked me to go out for a ride to the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area about 14 miles from our home yesterday. I was laying on the couch in our study with my eyes closed while Orange Julius performed on the TV. 

Her question startled me. Go outside? Even thirteen miles along Highway 12? Was the wildlife area open? Was it safe to go that far outside? Would we be breaking any rules? Would the police stop us?

Now, let me be clear. I live with my partner of nineteen years. We are sixty-nine and seventy-year-old black well-educated women. Joann has chronic asthma and hypertension. I have reactive asthma and hypertension. We take good care of ourselves. We have health insurance. We have enough money, for now. 

I have lived my entire life in urban areas. New Orleans, La., Oakland, Ca., Cambridge, Ma., and finally in a 4th floor condo in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Ca. We moved to Trilogy, an over fifty-five gated community three miles from the small town of Rio Vista, last September. Social distancing is strictly practiced. The local grocery, pharmacy and restaurants are open for pick up and they deliver. We are stocked up and so far, we are healthy. We are so privileged and, in many ways, safer than many. So, why was I so afraid at that moment?

My partner very patiently called to find that the wildlife area was indeed not staffed but open between sunrise and sunset. I got up, put on some clothes, and drove thirteen miles to Suisun City.

The clouds over the low green hills and fields towered and soared like floating island kingdoms. Red winged black birds perched along fence posts, as if showing us the way. The paved road gave way to gravel. Our tires grumbled over the washboard surface. Joann was on the lookout for wild Tule elk reported to live on the island. What we saw were regal egrets, soaring prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, smaller birds and ducks we couldn’t identify. Why? We left the binoculars at the house! The hills and marshes were covered with goldenfields, salt grass, spiney rush, and goldenrod. The air is clear and sweet.

The Grizzly Wildlife road was populated by cars and trucks pulled over, lots of distance between individuals, a few buddies, a father and daughter, a young couple, and whole families fishing. The inhabitants of almost every vehicle waved as we passed by. We slowed to reduce the plume of dust our car made as we approached each fisher spot. Everywhere we stopped, the fisher people reported stripers wererunning, but they were still too little to take home, so catch and release. 

We drove home with the setting sun behind us. Once at home fear 

continued to wash over me every once in a while, shiver, an awful thought of death and devastation. When this happened, Joann scooted closer to me on the sofa to allow me into her arms. I am as safe and loved as is possible, yet I am still afraid. 

I put Tuck & Patti, “Takes My Breath Away” as I begin my Morning Write. 

I write experiencing fear. I relax and welcome it. I breathe it in from my head along my spine into my sacrum and breathe in healing light. I breathe in everything that is healing and joyful. I breathe out that which is not useful, although rendered not harmful to others. I embrace my fear because the powerful and productive work of fear in the world is to mobilize, expose, speak, confront, share, connect, plan, organize, and act. The powerful and productive work of fear in the world is help ourselves and each other, to protect, to have faith, to lean into and be nourished by love and joy, give exquisite care to our sick, to grieve and let go of our, dead and to fight with all our might for our living. The positive and productive work of fear in the world is to fight for our lives. The positive and productive work in the world is to save our lives. It is our right to do everything to protect, preserve our lives, our communities, and our world. 

I go down my to-do list of selfcare a check them off: meditate, write, eat well, rest well, move, sing, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery with sanitizer, mask and gloves, & sometimes take a drive in our amazing country side. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Listen to music, Tuck and Patti today.  Laugh a lot. When I feel my fear or my hair on fire, I consult my to do list and tackle what is next on the list. 

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


A Writer’s Life Invites You to Chronicle Your Experiences of Our Perilous Times

These are perilous times. These are also times filled with challenges and opportunities to pause, listen, allow, pray, reflect, connect, envision, and innovate. In addition, we are charged with saving ourselves, each other, and our world. Journal with pen and pencil, voice recording, art, music, movement etc. Make a record of these times for yourself, and for your beloved ones and for those who come after you. 

Here’s a suggestion, one way, to structure and hold our thoughts, feelings, visions, brilliances, and knowings.

Write it Down

  • Write for 5-15 minutes each day or more if it delights you
  • Put the timer on  
  • Write with a commitment to transform your dreams, prayers, stories, songs, music, joy, sadness, anger, fear, silence, anxiety, immobility… onto the page and into positive, productive, and powerful action and art
  • What to do:
  • Choose a time
  • Choose a comfortable space
  • Set your timer
  • Center and breathe with intention for 1-5 minutes 

Or more, as is your practice 

  • Ask yourself and your guides for support & help you
  • Set your timer again
  • Write until your timer signals stop
  • After resetting your timer: Revise your writing
  • Read your writing out loud. Yes, this is a very good practice
  • Should it delight you to write more, reset your timer 
  • Write again
  • Reset timer & Revise again
  • Read out loud again
  • End your session
    • Give thanks to your Higher Power & Guides
    • Have a long drink of water or tea or…
  • Make a folder for your chronicling, name and date each entry & Save!
    • Put on some music & stretch & or dance & or take a walk, keeping Covid-19 safe
  • Share your chronicling experience with another 

by phone or email or text or snail mail, etc., should that delight you. 

Share it with your writing group or support group or via social media 

  • Read it out loud to a beloved one.  

Join me, starting Monday, March 23, 2020 for:

  • Morning Write: Monday – Friday from 7:30 am – 8:30 am Pacific Time
  • Evening Write: Monday – Friday from 8:00 pm- 9:00 pm Pacific Time 
  • I’ll be posting my daily writes at https://andreacanaan.blog and on Facebook 

Contact me for one-to-one writing consultation Or a time to read out loud your morning or evening write Orshare your morning or evening write with me via email. I will keep all of your writing in strict confidentiality. Please send as PDF so it cannot be changed. And, add the copyright sign, © On your keyboard press left parenthesis, plus the letter c, plus right parenthesis to produce the copyright sign.

Send confirmation that you would like to join a morning or evening write by email and or phone to receive Writing in Perilous & Innovative Times emails and texts. 

A Writer’s Life

Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA




Writing in a Time of Peril 3.20.2020

March 20, 2020

The US CDC reported 10,442 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 150 deaths nationwide. This represents a 48.3% increase in reported cases and a 54.6% increase in deaths from the previous day. – From Johns Hopkins daily update.

Orange Julius abused a journalist today during a news conference when he was asked to address the fears of millions of Americans. Some senators are reported to have possibly benefitted from sales of stock with insider information while assuring ordinary Americans that our economy and our markets were strong, there was nothing to fear. Doctors and nurses plead for masks, gowns, swabs, gloves, goggles, ventilators… 

Orange Julius lies and lies and lies and mis-informs and mis-manages while the specter of gross negligence and incompetence are costing the lives of American, our beloved ones, our neighbors….

We ride our tricycles and visit the wild rabbits and wild turkeys. We listen to the birds singing throughout our community. Someone is playing a saxophone. The sound is smooth and sweet in our ears. We wave at cars, the UPS and FedEx trucks, and the workers servicing our neighborhood. 

I take picture of the rabbits and turkeys, blooming irises, a radiant ornamental pear trees with a young woman sitting near, a young wisteria flowering for the first time, and cotton ball clouds in the blue sunny light sky of our afternoon sky.

I go down my to-do list of selfcare: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery and then only with mask and gloves and when there a very few people shopping. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Listen to music. Play games and laugh a lot with my partner. When I feel the fear, she holds me tight. When I feel the rage, I scream at the TV and make a list of positive and productive things to do. 

March 19, 2020, 11:50 pm.

The Vernal Equinox arrived to align day and night. Long nights have passed. The Anglo Saxon Goddess, Eostre, announces and celebrates a new life with the gifts of Easter. She asks us to awaken from our soul’s sleep. She demands that we cleanse our homes, our minds, our bodies, our hearts and our souls. She urges us  to enjoy the returning sun while we prepare ourselves to turn the soil, plant the fields, husband the animals, protect and preserve the land, air, water, every natural resource. She admonishes us to do our work in the world that protects and preserves life. She insists  that we tend to ourselves and each other with love, respect and honor. This she asks of us to assure our survival, our thriving in abundance and joy.

I begin to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


Prayer Song in a Time of Peril


The days before the final verdict on the articles of impeachment of Donald J. Trump for Obstruction of Congress and Abuse of Power, a collective memory stirred in me. I had been dreaming about and trying to imagine the middle passage. African children women, children and men stacked and shackled. The dead thrown overboard. Those who were forced to throw the dead overboard threw themselves as well. Unrelenting labor, torture, dismemberment, rape, and delivering children destined for the auction block. I imagined the cost to resist–rebel. The costs of living without respite or hope. The cost to living with hope for the freedoms of generations coming while constant fear and endless loss. 

Beginning with the FBI investigations into undue influences in our 2016 presidential election up to the impeachment hearings of the sitting president, I watched. I listened. I talked. I read. I slept with the actions of the leader of our nation–his administration–his spokespeople– his words–his actions. I was–I am furious-angry-rageful–not merely frustrated. I was-I am sad–prostrate with grief. I was–I am terrified–not paranoid–not overreacting–not histrionic–not biased–not hysterical. 

I have been experiencing rational terror informed by our current political realities in which the posture–quality–quantity and substance of our debates–policies–laws–norms–morality have been bent toward white supremacist territorial-social-political-religious-economic agendas for increased power and rule over women, children, black and brown people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, our land–our natural resources–our environment–all of our sacredness. I have been experiencing rational terror because of the hyper-escalation toward absolute presidential powers to influence and rule. I am witnessing the erasure of the checks and balances provided for in our constitution–by a free press–an independent judiciary–equal branches of government to adequately and effectively be truth to power–check that power–veto the power–impeach that power–inform the citizenry of the immediate and present dangers to our democracy and republic–end a decent into tyranny. My chest–head–arms–back ached. I wondered if I was experiencing heart attack symptoms. 

Early on the morning of February 5, 2020, the day of the president’s senate trial verdict for abuse of power and obstruction of congress, I heard my mother’s voice singing within me. In this memory, my mother and a church choir were singing the invitational. The invitational is the time in a protestant church service when anyone who wants to join the church is gently encouraged and warmly welcomed to come forward. I hummed along. I finally sang the song out loud–from memory–by heart.

The first songs I learned were hymns and Negro spirituals, the blues, the rowdy lewd kind, as well as the jazzy dancing kind, and the jazz ballads. Yet, when there is deep danger, sadness, anger, even joy, it is the church music that sounds in my mind, my sleeping and waking dreaming. 

From the ages of four to eleven years old, my church experience was one of safety, safe caring adults and lifelong friends. It was my first spiritual, educational, social, and political home. It taught me about reliance on my community, lifting each other up, and looking after the sick and the elderly. My church taught me black history, literature, music, and providing safety in community. My church was politically active in the civil rights movements. 

What I treasured most was the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of black bodies, voices and harmonies. It was a feeling of complete wholeness and safety in the segregated south. I felt linked to each and every person, to every black person, to every stolen generation before me. I felt safe. I felt protected. 

The deep irony of the hymns singing within me is that my church betrayed and abandoned me. I left my church and organized religion after I was sexually and emotionally abused, and exploited by a very powerful Methodist minister starting when I was eleven years old. For many years, I blamed myself for his abuse and my church’s failure to protect me or stop him. I blamed myself when my relationship with God was shattered. As I recovered, I re–established a sustaining spiritual practice and decided to stop participating in organized religion. When the songs came, I often kept the tunes and changes the words or layered additional words and stanzas to make the tune and the hymn accessible to me. 

I used the words my mother was singing to me to look up the name of the hymn and its author. I looked in the usual places online to find who wrote the music and lyrics to the song playing in my memory to no avail. Even though I could not find the hymn, I traced the memory and traced the provenance to an agreement to survive–more-to live and thrive through love and action. 

I asked myself to imagine the effect of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 and the yeas it took for all slaves to learned they were free. Jubilee. Freedom. Searching for loved ones. Mass migration. Building homes, churches, schools, businesses and towns. Voting, serving as mayors, governors, and legislators. 

I imagined the three days before the presidential inauguration in 1877. The democrats declared Rutherford B. Hayes, a republican, the winner of the 1876 presidential election in exchange for the removal of all federal troops from the south. This ended the Reconstruction Era and all its protections for former slaves’ equal rights as full citizens. It reignited a reign of domestic terror against former slaves and people of African descent. Kidnap, false imprisonment, rape, and murder. Homes, businesses, and towns looted and burned. Slavery again all but in name. 

After the Compromise of 1877, it would be seventy–seven years before Brown Versus Board of Education, eighty-eight years before the Voting Rights Act was passed, and ninety-one years before The Fair Housing Act was passed.  

My being began to write a poem between the lines of the words of the invitational hymn alternating lines of song and poem. The intertwining of hymn and poem reminded me that our current times are not the only times of peril we have survived. I felt admonished to refuse to give up on hope and joy. Refuse to give in to hate. Dispel disinformation, confusion and inaction. Mobilize my angers and my fears toward right individual and collective action. Remember, we are not alone. Those who have gone before us remain with us. We can lean and depend on them. They are our guides.  We are each other’s guides.


Call and Response

Give me this day

As the sand cranes in the delta lift up in first flight 

The pardon of my sins

In refusing to treasure my whole self in the whole selves of others

Or carelessness or 

Willful ignorance or

In anger

Or love

Cleanse thou my heart

My mind

My body

My intentions

My actions

Make me pure within

Knowing perfection is not required 

Nor is it a staple of nature

I know no fear 

That is not fuel for 

Preserving and saving my own life

The lives of others

Our planet 

When thou art by my side

God Goddess Adi Buddha Yeshua 

Yahweh Allah Baha Parmatman

Shakti-Jehovah Yeshiva Yemoja Oya

Oshun-Ayida Weddo-Quan Yin

Stay ever close beside me

Into the sun’s last wink into night  

Be my guide

The guide within me

The image of you.

© Andrea R. Canaan

Rio Vista, California 


In love and appreciation for my mother, Dora Ester Ransom Bridges.

Local Author Series: Jenee Darden & Yodassa Williams

at Verve Wellness Studio

1231 Cortland, Ave. (Bernal Heights)

San Francisco, Ca. 94110

Saturday, March 14, 2020

10:00 am- 12:00 pm

Jenee Darden, author of  When a Purple Rose Blooms, shares her journey of growth from black girl to black woman growing up in Oakland, California. Her writing is smart, complex and accessible. Her journey is filled with humor, self–love and empowerment, all while absorbing the barbed messages of being black and female in her time.  

Yodassa  Williams, author of The Goddess Twins  writes an exciting tale of discovery by identical twins. Aurora and Arden develop powers in telekinesis and telepathy days before their eighteenth birthday. Adventures and dangers abound for the sisters as they master their powers and confront a family mystery that is centuries old. 

Contact: Andrea R Canaan, MSW,MFA, Email: andreacanaan@gmail.com, Website: https://andreacanaan.blog

Phone: 415-515-5943. 

Location: Verve Wellness Studio 1231 Cortland Ave, S. F., Ca 94110.

Reading is an essential part of A Writer’s Life