I want to Hear Negro Spirituals…

When I die, I want to hear Negro Spirituals as I did when I came into the world, bathed in the sound of promise and hope. I want the melodic, bone stirring sound of black folk’s history to carry me to the land of forgiveness and justice. I want to hear my granddaddy’s voice ringing loud and clear from the pulpit at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Weeksville, NC. I want to listen to my grandmother begin a song from the front pew where the deaconesses sit because God pinched her spirit, and the joy in her soul bursts forth as a song of praise.
When I die, I want my mind to flashback to a time when my brothers and I played on the homestead. We were warriors running wild in the woods, and at night saying our prayers, thankful for each other and another day. The music of our youth was the Negro Spiritual. We knew who we were. We knew because our mother showed us who she was and showed us who we could become. On days when she worried about us, she would sit in the family room with her bible in hand, and her voice would slice through the quietness, vibrant and full, and fill the space with praise and prayer. She sang and prayed that we would one day, “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” A Negro Spiritual sang, asking God for his divine guidance and protection for her four boys.
My life has been a Negro Spiritual. I have waded through the waters, trying to find my way to take a closer walk with God. I have felt the despair of feeling mentally chained. I have known the fear of expected cross burnings on our lawn as I heard of them burning on other lawns in our community. If you look back through our history, we sang and sing of our pain. “In the name of Jesus,” is a full volume of prayer in those five words.
The Negro Spiritual has been our GPS, our chain breaker, and our mental salvation. The Negro Spiritual is Harriet Tubman, Althea Gibson, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, My Mother, and every other woman in my lineage, and yours. The Negro Spiritual is the backbone of every Black Americans story and has survived on the bosom of every black mother who ever lived; it still does. We all heard our grandmothers standing in the kitchen, humming and singing as if salvation is going to knock on her front door at any minute.
When I die, I want someone to stand and sing a Negro Spiritual. I do not wish for musical accompaniment. I want a clear baritone voice singing, “There’s a Train Bound For Glory.” One last time as I depart this world, I want people to stand up, moved to tears because they can see Jesus walk into the church and take my hand. When I die, I want the last note of my chosen song to end and hear the church say, “Amen.” My granddaddy will preach loud and clear. My grandmother will sit on the front pew, humming, getting ready to deliver her next Negro Spiritual. As they roll my body out of Galilee, I want to take their hands and walk into heaven. As my Grandparents lead the way, I will hear Negro Spirituals guiding my steps.

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