Prayer Song in a Time of Peril

I

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.

II

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 

2.5.2020

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

Women’s Writer’s Camp

Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA Invites you to a Women’s Writer’s Camp

in Windsor, California

March 19 –through 22, 2020

Together is better than alone and more fun. Come write, collaborate and support one another across generations, definitions, abilities and backgrounds. 

Writer’s Camp in Windsor, California is designed to facilitate intensive writing, enable direct immediate feedback, and encourage wellness. Our time together will include private writing time, group learning and discussion, and shared meals each day. Don’t forget the pool and hot tub!

Capacity is ten (10) participants. Last day to enroll: March 2, 2020

Writer’s Camp Fee and Lodging for Three Night (3) $425.00 Single Occupancy – $325.00. Double Occupancy

Reserve your space with a $200.00 deposit by February 24, 2020 and receive a 20% discount. Pay Here

Location & Accommodations: Writer’s Camp at World Mark, 1251 Shiloh Road, Windsor, California, 95492, Approximately 75 mi. North of California just above Santa Rosa. Fully equipped kitchen, w/d, patio w/grill, outdoor pool, hot tub etc. Coffee, tea, and healthy snacks will be available all day and evening. Writers responsible for own food. Bring food to prepare, order in or eat out in the Windsor Community.

Andrea Canaan holds MFAs in fiction and nonfiction. She is a retired therapist and writer specializing supporting creative work and wellness. Andrea Canaan will be your writing camp leader.  Contact: Andrea Canaan–phone 415-515-5943– email: andreaccanaan@gmail.com website: https://andreacanaan.blog https://www.facebook.com/Andrea-Canaan-Author-456010704809232/                                                                               

Jump Start Your 2020 Writing Year

Come write with us at A Writer’s Life

Writing Group a Verve Wellness Studio

Sunday, January 12, 2020

10:30 am-Noon

An engine of the soul?

A core of divine being?

A gathering of her-mind-soul-body-spirit fuel?

A furling – unfurling strength and courage?

A guide?

A gorgeous image?

Write into what you taste-see-hear-feel-think-sense-remember-and or know.

Envision your writer’s life this coming year.

Andrea R Canaan, MSW,MFA
A Writer’s Life 
Verve Wellness Studio
1231 Cortland Avenue
S.F., Ca 94110
415-415-515-5943

andreacanaan@gmail.com

Before the Solstice

On Solstice morning

 A Sunday School was singing in my mind

Count your blessings

Count them one by one

Count your many blessings

See what God has done. 

My awakened mind paused at the word, God

I thought of all the God  and Goddesses words that were not included in my Sunday school lessons:

Adi Buddha-Yeshua-Yaheweh-Allah-Baha-Parmatma-Shakti-Jehovah-Yeshiva-Yemoja-Oya-Oshun-Ayida-Weddo-Quan Yin

I sing a verse with each holy name within it

I stumbled on the unfamiliar fit

As I sang until

The rhythms to fit  

Another song came

I woke up this morning with my mind on freedom

I woke up this morning with my mind on freedom

I woke up this morning with my mind on freedom

Hallelu, Hallelu ,Halleujah 

My guide on this morning 

On the cusp of the 

Shortest day 

Longest night I

Count my blessings 

Keep my mind on freedom 

Let go

Give up 

Into the night

Confusion-Forgetting-Grief-Despair-Rage

Fear-Silence-Inertia

I lean on

Increase

Love, honor, joining, creating, giving, receiving 

I depend on moving toward the light

In bask and revive in 

Joy

Andrea R. Canaan

December 20, 2019

Atlanta, Georgia

San Francisco Writer’s Camp October 11th through 13th, 2019

Photo by Justin Aiken

Charlene Allen & Andrea Canaan Invite you to a Writer’s Camp for Women in San Francisco

Charlene Allenand Andrea Canaandeveloped Writer’s Campto enable direct immediate critical feedback, encourage wellness, and enrich our vital writing relationship as women writers. 

Charlene is a creative consultant specializing in adult and children’s fiction. Andrea is a therapist and writer specializing in creative non-fiction and fiction. We find that sharing our work and creative process brings joy, dispels isolation and fear of rejection, and brings our writing to life  We have convened Writer’s Camp in Brooklyn, New York, Granby, Massachusetts, Atlanta, Georgia, and San Francisco, California. 

The San Francisco Writer’s Camp will provide a nurturing writing environment grounded in supported writing, building writing and creative community, promoting individual wellness, and publishing and promoting our writing work. Our time together will include individual consultation, writing, revising, workshopping, and a public reading. 

Schedule: Friday, October 11th- 6-9 pm – Saturday, October 12th10am –6 pmSunday October 13th10–6pm (Reading 4-6pm)

Writer’s Camp San Francisco

Location: Verve Wellness Studio
1231 Cortland Avenue  (Corner of Cortland & Nevada, Bernal Heights Neighborhood, BART to 24th Street) 

Writer’s Camp Fee:             $300.00

Contact Us: 

Charlene Allen– phone: 347-512-7574-email: charlenallen29@gmail.comwebsite: www.charleneallen.com

Andrea Canaan–phone 415-515-5943– email: andreaccanaan@gmail.comweb site: https://andreacanaan.bloghttps://www.facebook.com/Andrea-Canaan-Author-456010704809232/

Celebrating this 4th of July 2019

This 4th of July thousands of separated children, teens women and men have been dispersed into states, cities and rural locations. They are undocumented children, mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers wives, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, friends, husbands. They are undocumented, legal asylum seekers and seeking to immigrate. They have been forced and shuttled into another Colored People’s Diaspora on both sides of the Mexican border.

Photograph by frank mckenna@frankiefotos

Thousands of refugees are crushed inside cages and warehouses, left out in the elements along our southern borders and scattered over Louisiana and Mississippi in private secreted prisons.

An unknown number of children and teens have been separated from their parents, declared unaccompanied minors when, in fact, they were accompanied, and were denied passage to relatives and sponsors who would care for them, feed them, cloth them, provide medical care, recreation, education, human touch, welcoming arms, smiles, and soothing words and deeds for shattered hearts. We don’t know how many. We don’t know all of the places they are being imprisoned or placed in foster care or where or adopted or trafficked for al we know. When mayors and legislators, and others, demand to see them, they are turned away or they are hidden away. Food and hygiene supplies are shown to visitors but not given to the children, women and men.

This 4thof July news reports tell of shocking and heartbreaking atrocities being committed in our names. No access to due process or healthy sustainable food or water or hygiene or medical attention or environments to rest and sleep or  education or recreation or freedom of movement or lawful and humane treatment or lawful oversight.

Women who are already citizens are facing numerous laws that take control of their bodies, force them to carry unwanted pregnancies or submit to abusive invasions before receiving constitutionally protected health care services.

I cannot celebrate America’s freedom and birth when tens of thousands of people are treated inhumanely for the sole purpose of assuring white people in America that white dominance and privilege will remain the intention of the law and the order of our nation, and to secure the second illegitimate election of the current president

I woke up on the 4th this year thinking about what I wanted for the day.  I want freedom, I said to myself. I want to hold my nation’s truths “to be self-evident, that all men, and women, are created equal, that they, we, are endowed by their, our, Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I do and will “continually help to…”  form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare..”

That’s what I want, I said to myself.

Although my heart swells to all of the patriotic songs and hymns of every branch of military service, I, and my peoples, have never experienced the full freedoms of U. S. citizens. And, while I insist, fight, vote, talk, march and write about equality, justice, the pursuit of liberty and happiness, inalienable rights, freedom and justice for all, I still live in fear for all people of color, all immigrants of color, LGBTQ people, all women and all of our children. 

I decided to listen to Nina Simone, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDqmJEWOJRI as she sings out my longing for authentic, non-delayed, non-gerrymandered freedoms for women’s rights to control our own bodies, receive equal pay, receive equal protections from harassers, abusers, and rapists without statutes of limitation, to experience freedom from racial and police profiling, and abuse, free from being murdered by domestic terrorists, given bolder and bolder permissions by the head of our nation, or agents of the state. 

After I listened to Nina Simone,I decided I needed to do more to keep myself in authentic black 4thof July celebration spirit. I listened to Alice Walker read Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech at a Women’s Rights Conference, where she asked ‘aint I a woman?’.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDqmJEWOJRI, to James Earl reading Frederick Douglas’s speech, What to the Slave is the 4th of July. https://youtu.be/8tTkHJWxfP0. I was uplifted by the youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, accompanied by The Boston Pops Orchestra https://boston.cbslocal.com/2019/07/03/youth-poet-laureate-amanda-gorman-independence-day-poem-boston-pops/

I’m grateful for the relative privileges and full obligations I have as a citizen of the United States of America. I renew my pledge to be an informed, fully participating, fully empowered citizen and to reverse the policies and practices of those who have engineered our beloved nation into a divided states of America. I will remain true to myself and all of the peoples of my native lands. I will act up, sit in, march, resist, campaign, vote, oversee, and hold accountable my nation to grow into a fully functioning equal, just, multicultural, multi-ethnic, democratic republic, and yes, celebrate our every small and large victory.

While food, fireworks, dancing, parades, marching bands, soaring symphonies of patriotic music, grilling, red white and blue bunting and every kind of summer fun is the traditional celebration for most, it remains an elusive dream, sometimes nightmare, for many. As a citizen of this country, I work toward the day when we are truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. I want to celebrate this day with abandon and joy. I want our children’s belonging and freedoms to be secure. I want to celebrate like the child in the Frank McKenna photograph above. Today, sadly, is not that day.

Andrea R. Canaan–July 4, 2019–San Francisco, California