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  • Writer's pictureAshley Asti

I See You in Me

Healing is not easy.

Changing the narrative is not easy.

Transforming the patriarchy and undoing its damage? Definitely not easy.

But I’m wondering if the root of it, even if not easy, is simple: love.

Jason Reynolds on another podcast, the On Being podcast, said this recently:

“Anti-racism is simply the muscle that says that humans are human…It should be a natural thing to say, ‘I love you, because you remind me more of myself than not.’

I can’t seem to stop thinking about this, and how much it reminds me of Mannie, the guest on my latest episode about prison and patriarchy.

During our conversation, Mannie describes the moment he received a letter from someone he didn’t know while he was in prison. It was early in his long tenure there, and he had recently gotten sentenced. As he kept reading the letter, it suddenly became clear who the woman was whose words graced that page. As her compassion mingled with regret, he realized it wasn’t a random stranger expressing support; she was a juror—one of his jurors—who voted to convict him.

Mannie’s first reaction was anger; after all, he thought, hadn’t she put him there, in that prison cell? Wasn’t it her fault?

The thing about life and growing up into deeper awareness is that we sometimes discover the unexpected in ourselves and each other and, so, eventually, this anger subsided and curiosity rose: Mannie and this juror met in a prison visiting room, through a glass panel.

Mannie told me, “In that moment, as we began to share one another’s experience, it was two people that may have been separated by time, geography, socioeconomic status and all that. [But] none of those things mattered. We were two people who were just seeing each other as people, who acknowledged the trauma that we both had experienced because of patriarchy and the system and, in that moment, we chose healing. So our friendship continued.”

One connection doesn’t change the world over night, but, over time, it does change us. And this has a ripple effect on our other relationships, our choices, our communities.

We need systemic change and I don’t pretend that it’s easy or that I have any of the answers.

I also know that love is powerful, a transformative force. I do know that we can choose it.

Beneath Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement was a movement toward a beloved community—people connected in love. Not romantic love, but a public love. A spiritual love.

Love undergirds all.

Love alone is not the answer. But, maybe, what we do with it is.

Listen to the full episode with Mannie Thomas here, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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