The first time I read Toni Morrison, I believed.

The second time I read Toni Morrison, I understood.

The third time I read a book by Toni Morrison, I saw. I saw the face of my student as Pecola Breedlove, praying for blue eyes, unaware of her own inner strength and beauty.

Today I mourn the passing of Ms. Morrison. I mourn the loss of a voice that so clearly explored, explained, and celebrated the African-American experience. I mourn the loss of a voice that so clearly and loudly opposed the systemic and institutionalized racism that tears apart my children’s lives.

And perhaps it’s serendipitous that Ms. Morrison passed today, of all days.

As I scroll through social media and I see reports of the acts and non-acts of our politicians punctuated by Toni Morrison’s legacy of peace and power, I see a concrete juxtaposition of good and evil in our world. Light versus dark. Black versus white. Peace versus hate. It feels as if, in one final sigh, Ms. Morrison ignited her legacy in one last opposition to the evil that emanates from the haunted halls of our government, the evil that empowers men to kill many, justified by the words of a few. And I pray that in her remembrance, we may also see the truth.

Toni Morrison’s words live on.

Our words live on.

Let our words be our power in the face of hate. Let our words bring peace, and hope, and change. Let our words honor those who have gone before us, and those who are yet to come. Let the chorus of our words drown out the chorus of hate-fueled rhetoric, racist rhetoric. Let our words empower acts of peace, and condemn acts of violence.

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

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