To the homesteader, the race traitor, the outcast, and the movement ancestors.

"Sunset at Rockville Cemetery," John Brighenti CC, Rockville, Maryland, March 2023

Here’s to the ancestors

who struggled
and survived
and did harm
because they didn’t know how not to
because they were beholden to lies
about who doesn’t deserve safety.
Whose stories get told as if they were good,
instead of as heartbreaking tales
of no good choices
or as cautionary tales.
Because of you,
I know to be more aware
of the family I’m not taught
are family.

Here’s to the ancestors
who resisted
who stood up
and were beaten down
only to stand again.
The ancestors whose stories
are whispered
at best
if we’re lucky
or who hide between the lines
if we are skilled enough
to spot disability
queerness
race traitor tendencies.
Because of you,
I know that to be hidden
might be because I’m
the right kind
of dangerous.

Here’s to the ancestors
who suffered
because they were
women
queer
different
dark
vibrating on a higher
and therefore wrong
plane.
Whose stories
maybe get told
as tragic romantic
instead of rage inducing
warnings of the violent world
we still inhabit.
Because of you,
I know I am called
to stand with people like you
because they are also
people like me.

Here’s to the ancestors
who don’t share blood
except the long-ago ancestral blood
of the motherland.
The ones who showed us
another world is possible.
The ones who risked it all for us
because we belonged to them beyond blood
beyond legacy
beyond caste and class and race.
The ones they forget to tell us
are also our ancestors.
Because of you
I know
I need to be
the ancestor
that all the descendants on earth
deserve.

Sandhya Jha is a light-skinned mixed race South Asian American queer Disciples of Christ pastor and the author of_Rebels, Despots, and Saints: The Ancestors Who Free Us and the Ancestors We Need to Free. _Sandhya is the founder of the Oakland Peace Center on occupied Ohlone territory. They are currently working on a PhD in social policy in Philadelphia. They love jam sessions even though their guitar playing is only meh.

Issue 70

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 70, Fall 2023, Ancestors, Remembering for the Future.

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