On the Monday after the U.S. presidential election, I got locked out of church. I’d had this very nightmare a couple nights before and now it was coming true. (Thanks, lost keys.) When I am stressed or grieving, as I have been about the election and its aftermath of hate crimes and “Hail Trump!”, attention to detail is the first to go.
I would’ve happily left work and crawled back under my covers, but my Zumba students—diverse folks from Wildflower Church Unitarian Universalist and the wider Austin, Texas, community who have come to call dance a spiritual practice—were already pulling into the parking lot.
“I’m sorry, y’all,” I said, gesturing to the locked door. “It’s been a tough week.”
I hoped maybe we could all go home. Instead I heard: “Let’s dance out here!”
I preach the power of the arts to uplift, so even though I was tired in body and soul, I could not argue. We put on “La Bicicleta” by Carlos Vives and Shakira and swayed, stretched, and salsa’ed in the courtyard, in full view of a busy street, Starbucks, and high school students on their way to class.
Puedo ser feliz / Caminando relajada entre la gente
Yo te quiero así / Y me gustas porque eres diferente
[I can be happy / relaxed walking among people
I love you the way you are / And I like you because you are different]
My choreography was far from perfect in this distracted state, but some dance is better than no dance, and I like to think Zumba helps us—myself included—rebel against cultural and personal perfectionism.
We were eventually let into the Wildflower community room, where one woman later slipped off to a dark hallway and wept, grieving over the election and fearful for our community, which includes Muslims, immigrants, and many others who were specifically targeted in Donald Trump’s campaign. “I thought I was ready to go out in the world but I’m not,” she said when I checked on her. She is white, and her husband is of Latino and Native heritage. Like many parents, they are not only processing their own emotions about the election, but are consoling a devastated daughter.
Still, this mom stayed in the class. I felt full of gratitude for her and for all the dancers in our class—mothers, grandmothers, activists, workers, volunteers—and the large and small ways they show up in our community every day.
“You could have gone home but you didn’t,” I hollered, between Pitbull and Sia songs. “You showed up today with courage, patience, and determination, where people could see you. The world desperately needs all of that right now.”
The world also needs ways to imagine a better future, something beyond the rise of neo-Nazis, hate crimes, and the gaping divides that have always been there and which are now on stark display in our nation’s politics. For that imagining—for making a way out of no way, as the African American tradition calls it—we owe a deep debt of gratitude and support to leaders and young people of color in the UU movement.
From the Black Lives of UU’s Revive Love tour with Rev. Sekou and the Holy Ghost to the work of the Washington, D.C.-based, intentionally multiracial, interfaith group The Sanctuaries (which I serve as a field advisor), multicultural arts groups are leading that new way.