WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Saving Democracy

By Carol Thomas Cissel

“I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.”
Madam C.J. Walker

On January 20, 2021, our country changed. The new Administration coming to D.C. makes me hopeful and brings me pure JOY.

Black Women in these United States of America live a brilliant, joyful, soul-filled, precious existence. We catch a glimpse of that JOY every time Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams smiles—not a practiced for-the-camera smile. No: a wide smile that reaches their eyes, unabashedly splashing JOY onto anyone within range.

A Black woman, with her back to the camera, speaks into a microphone in front of a large audience outdoors, which appears to be a rally or protest.

I’ve been basking in those joy-filled grins for months because I know it was challenging for them, respectively, to become the first Black Woman Vice-President, and to build the Fair Fight organization that toppled Georgia’s entrenched political machine. Yes: there’s JOY in being a woman of color.

To be a Black Woman in the U.S. is also excruciating. From cradle to casket, our lives are altered by the twin oppressions of sexism and racism. We live with micro-attacks and macro-aggressions that run through our daily existence unimpeded—like a hot knife through cold butter.

In her seminal text Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Zora Neale Hurston said it much more eloquently than I: “…black women are the mules of the world.” They carry the load that white men, white women, and black men refuse to carry; they do the work no one wants to do, without praise or thanks.

Last fall we needed to flip two Senate seats in Georgia and evict the President. The mules (and their siblings, Aunties, Uncles, children, etc.) carried the load and changed the world. They stood in lines, wore masks while campaigning, and sent millions of texts, emails, and tweets. Black Queens saved our democracy. We owe them a great deal.

As a child, my mother’s kitchen had images of MLK and Jesus adorning the walls. I have photos of MLK and Barack Obama in my house. I’ve added two images to my walls—Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With," and the 2020 image, created by Bria Goeller, of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris striding past a wall where her shadow appears as then-6-year-old Ruby Bridges, who integrated her New Orleans elementary school in 1960—and I have Stacey’s picture on my altar. They give me JOY. I remember how these folks served our country. Cut their pictures out. Stash them in your wallet. They will bring you JOY too.


Source of Sources, Sweet Spirit of Light and Love, help us bear witness to the pain of those we mark as others; unclench our fists so we can applaud the tenacity and triumphs of those we repeatedly marginalize; pour acceptance and strength into our hearts and lead us to share them with those we carelessly exclude and devalue. May it be so. Amen. Ashanti. Blessed Be.

About the Author

Carol Thomas Cissel

Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel, (M.S., M.Div.), is the settled minister of the UU Fellowship of Centre County in State College, PA. She is passionate about homiletics, crafting exuberant worship, travel, and small batch bourbon. Carol collects the masterworks of both Native American and First Nations...


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