Giving Life, Like the Water

A two week Ride is so much different from two months.

I mean, I don't know this from experience. This is my first rodeo with the Equality Ride. But I mean, I'm thinking out loud here. There are at least a million ways that these things are totally worlds away from each other.

Firstly, our Riders are not necessarily all with us at the same time. Today we were greeted by CC, but Haven had to leave us. It was one of a series of joyful encounters and sad goodbyes along the way -- and it asks us to consider: How do we hold each other in this very spiritually intense project, only for a few moments, before one of our teammates leave and a new person comes on?

Second: the amount of time we get to spend in one place is so short! 8+ schools in 17 days means a ton of back-end work for a sometimes 12-hour stopover. Meeting students very quickly, touching down on a school for a daring moment, maybe spending the night, and then keeping it moving.

Being only 23 and knowing everything I know about logistics and people-moving from being one of four kids in a working class family, a project of this magnitude is a new and fantastic beast to me. It is an all-consuming labor of love, to get to work on something youth-led alongside my peers.

Today, before we quickly whisked ourselves out the door of our Nashville home for a long day of driving out to Knoxville, we took a moment to breathe and receive a ritual at the Harpath River.

Rev. Alba and DJ, our Nonviolence Strategist, asked us during the first Southeast House retreat to collect water from our homeland in a vial, which we brought to the rest of the retreats. We walked out with our water to the mouth of the Harpath. “Haida,” we sang over and over again. Rev. Alba noted that this Hebrew word doesn't mean anything – it is meant as a placeholder to hold whatever you are feeling. I got to play out my

heartbeat over a drum. I have been holding so much since our first stop – so much joy in meeting my people across the South, so much sorrow for others, so much pain in myself for what I have experienced in my own lifetime, and I could feel it pour out onto the land, and over the air, and into the water.

“Milk and honey,” Rev. Alba offered us hunks of bread and a cup of sweet coconut milk. “Alimento para la lucha. Nourishment for the journey.” We dipped our bread into the milk. It was the sweetest thing to hold that morsel of dense sweet bread, communion on my tongue, dripping with milk. The ritual was familiar to me – I grew up Catholic – but with a particular bent towards the delightful nature of messiness, of being drenched, of abundance. It did so much good to my heart.

“Water is the Source of life,” Rev. Alba explains as they ask us to bring forward our vials to empty into a large vessel in the middle of their altar. Suddenly the water in vials was flowing out and filling a new space.

We ride with our ancestors from that water, over the curves of the Smoky Mountains that guide us out to Knoxville for an evening of rest before engaging with a new school. Reverberating with that which gives life -- which is our work before all else, to be that which reflects the God that promises life abundant rather than death in God's creation -- is how we honor and reflect our legacy, our heritage, and our charge as God's children. Like the water. So we ride.

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Soulforce works to end the political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people through relentless nonviolent resistance.

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