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toni morrison is love

August 6, 2019
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“I dream a dream that dreams back to me.”

Today, much like my imagination, is now owned by Toni Morrison. Because today is the day she has transitioned from being one of the finest articulations of what our ancestors can do, into being one of our ancestors. Today is emotionally difficult for a legion of people that found new ways of knowing and being through Toni Morrison’s work. There is no Black artist that is alive today — in any medium — that has not benefited from her bravery, both as discipline and as a way of expressing the truth. Toni Morrison liberated us all. 

There is a litany of awards, and accomplishments that Morrison’s work has garnered throughout her career that will be listed in the many things you read about her over the next few days, but even her most grand successes in the material world are failures at articulating why she is our Beloved one: she taught us how to dream.

Wasn’t it Jazz that made us dream about love? Wasn’t it Paradise that made us dream about community? Wasn’t it Sula that made us dream about friendship?  Wasn’t it Beloved that made us dream about survival? Wasn’t it Songs of Solomon that made us dream about men and gods? And wasn’t it The Bluest Eye, the tragic story of Pecola Breedlove, that made us dream about ourselves?

It is in the dream that we are safe to explore and be challenged by our nightmares and shadows, and to see for ourselves the power of light. It is in the dream that we are able to refine ourselves and leap off buildings in attempts to fly, and talk to dead children in attempts to clarify what is living righteously. Toni Morrison’s literature changed the landscape of art, yes, but it is the dreamscape that she formed that articulated what our minds can do.

Black genius — however you calculate such an infinite thing — isn’t something just made up of melanin and thoughts. It is dreamed. The walk towards freedom and equity in this country was not started by an election or a march, it began through a dream. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed. Harriett Tubman dreamed. Maya Angelou dreamed. Nina Simone dreamed. Our mamas and grandmamas dreamed — they dreamed their best dreams — and produced us. We are loved.

Toni Morrison knew this power and taught us through fiction and non-fiction how dreams could most radically shift our lives.  We must feel the loss of Toni Morrison’s death, the magnitude of it, the depths of it, so we might now know just how big we must dream to honor the profound gift we were given by Toni Morrison; the world’s writer, but our dreamer. There’s an empty space in our hearts that ought to be filled steadily by everything Toni Morrison has dreamed us to be. Grief is a natural response, but mourning is a discipline. Mourning isn’t crying and melancholy; mourning is living like there was a Black woman born in Lorain, Ohio who dedicated her life in giving you hopes and dreams until her last breath. That’s the stuff Black dreams are made of.

It is perhaps because Toni Morrison cracked my head open and taught me how to dream that it’s difficult to not feel everyone else’s mourning of her is disrespectful if we only reduce her to the stuff that she’s done, and not remember that Toni Morrison was, and is, a powerful idea. She was, and is, a divine dream. 

We are all collectively Pilate from Morrison’s novel, Songs of Solomon — described as the trumpeting, grieving elephant — that bursts through a funeral unsatisfied with the niceties around death; and we’re shouting like she did, “She was loved! She was loved! She was loved!” And despite the grief we have to go through because now we are forced to dream on her own, it does bring me comfort to know that Toni Morrison was beloved on earth. And now she is love.