Tangela Harris—Remembering a Fierce Midwife of Justice

TangelaBy Lindsay Airey

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free.
Audre Lorde

Tangela. Dear, fierce and tender Tangela. I just heard the news. I don’t even know how you died. I just got word pouring in over social media. 40 years old. How can you be dead? How can it be true?

Mind racing with questions. And tears. Tears and tears and tears. How can it be so? You were so ALIVE! Oh, and the children. The babies who must be grieving your loss. You were so beloved. So depended upon. So ready to respond in the time of need. So true a human. Oh, and how great were the burdens you carried. Rest now, dear Sister. Though our tears and cries long to bring you back, to fill the great void you have left.

I remember (so clearly!) first meeting you. Your face so bright, so full of life and energy—of urgency. A woman of great fierceness and awareness, matched only by deep feeling and a spirit that shone true.

You embraced me, quite literally, on that first meeting of ours. One of the first true embraces I felt, outsider I am to this place, your place, to this struggle, your struggle. But you courageously reached past the exterior—past my white, outsider face. You reached deep inside me and touched my spirit—a powerful encounter the spirit does not soon forget. You saw me—and let me see you. What gift.

I came in to be trained that day on the Water Rights Hotline—but you gave me far more than I had bargained for. I thought I would be trained in logistics and mechanics and procedures—but you gave me stories. With a fierce urgency in your eyes, you gave me yourself, inseparable from this fight. But you did not stop at anger and analysis, so often the safe meeting place for strangers in struggle—a strange dance we do, indeed. No, you asked questions and told stories intended for transformation—not the same old venting ones, nor the detached-overload-of-information ones. Indeed, dear Sister, you transformed me that day. With your intention, you brought tears to my eyes, and your stories continue to do their work—to call me out, at the same time they go about inviting and embracing me to share in struggle. To find my place in this fight.

I will invoke your spirit now every time I think real transformation feels impossible–amidst this ever-growing present darkness. You showed me it was not. You showed me we can all become alive and empowered enough to break past the barriers, within and without, which keep us from unleashing a love-waging force on this planet. From sounding forth a clarion call for a new world, a better world—starting with getting real about the mess we’ve made of this one, especially we white-faced settler descendants. Indeed, dear Sister, we need this spirit of yours now more than ever.

Rest in power. May those of us left behind continue your work. May we #wagelove worthy of you.

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