The Bells Rang on Saturday

By Becky Thompson

     On Saturday, November 7, church bells rang twelve times at noon and then didn’t stop, ringing for a whole hour as people poured out of their apartments and cars to Centre street in Jamaica Plain. The church minister left the doors open so anyone could go in and ring the bell. I ran out of my house with my new puppy, Lola, her tail in a perennial wag, sun on my face, hearing the cheers and then seeing the crowd forming like birds on a safe wire. A woman with a flannel shirt carried a white bird flying on a stick, a white sea gull from Bread and Puppet theater years when we could count on birds and flowers and waterfalls to flourish demonstrations. There was a man on stilts with his daughter just a few steps behind him, her stilts just a big shorter than his. There were so many dogs on leashes you might have mistaken the spontaneous parade for a boisterous kennel. Families with rickety and Cadillac strollers, a few with Biden and Harris signs including my favorite, “You’re fired.” Biden’s no progressive. He won’t defund the police and still believes capitalism and democracy can cohabitate. But he’s not Agent Orange. All day I remembered the now legendary antiracist activist Anne Braden telling me, “we gotta celebrate each battle won, not wait until the end of the war, since that might not come.” 

     Anne Braden did that celebrating with cigarettes, long skinny sticks that she pulled out at end of meetings, after an interview, after eating a hoagie, when talking about her husband Carl and her love. Braden who kept talking even with her eyes closed for a late night interview she granted me when I was writing A Promise and A Way of Life, as I wondered, shall I wake her up so that no ashes fall on her leg, or let her sleep, as she keeps talking about what it takes to be a white woman refusing to let racism decide where her black friends can live. On the unseasonably warm Saturday, four full days after the polling places had closed, we learned that Biden won the popular and electoral college vote…that Trump’s reign would not be renewed, renewal in the faces of the people eating ice cream and chanting “We did it. We did it.”

     The mayor of Paris sent a message, “Welcome back” and young people in Hong Kong tweeted “yes.” Kamala Harris lifted up the spirit of her mother Shyamala Gopalan as the prime minister of India reached out. In the coming days, we may extinguish our celebratory smokes, get back to the reality of 70 days before us. My magnolia tree is growing buds in this summer weather in November. Help! And Chandler and Maggie will still be holding their cups for money on Centre Street since their jobs disappeared in the face of covid. But for this minute, these hours, Anne Braden, we are living it up.Becky Thompson, is poet, scholar, activist, and yogi. She is a long time resident of Jamaica Plain and thanks all of the people

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