Women, Existing and Singing

It’s day 9,348 of COVID-19 panic and last night, I read a story from Shar Walker* about her grandmother and a gospel song. Shar writes, 

I can picture my grandmother swaying to the hum of a popular gospel song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” eyes closed and soft rocking. I knew she was drawing near to God in her heartache. She was trusting that Jesus was the Light even in her own darkness. Her tears would trickle down her high cheekbones, each drop holding its own bitter story. I used to imagine that the God she was praying to was whispering gentle words of comfort in her ear through her meditation. 

I’m sure I’ve heard His Eye Is On The Sparrow, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it. 

So, last night, I closed my book and I listened to Whitney Houston sing it. 

Why should I feel discouraged?

And why should the shadows come?

Then I listened to Lauryn Hill sing it. 

Why should my heart feel lonely

And long for heavenly home

Then I listened to Ethel Waters

When Jesus is my portion?

And my constant friend is He

You know, his eye is on the little sparrow

And I know he cares for you and me

And Mahalia Jackson

His eye is on the little sparrow

And I know God is watching over you and me

I sing because my soul is a happy

I sing because I’m free

For His eye, it is on the little sparrow

And I know He’s watching over you and me

I marveled. I was humbled. And then—I was undone. 

Undone by the lyrics and undone by the women singing. I marvel that a woman could sing about freedom. I marvel that a black woman could sing about freedom. I marvel at all the women who have had to exist for each woman to be, existing, and singing—for the women who have had to exist for me to be here, existing, and listening. 

Undone leads to humbled. Humbled leads to listening. Teach me.  

Mahalia Jackson was born in 1911 in New Orleans. “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free . . . it gives me hope,” she said.  

Hope!

If ever there was a time for the powers at large and the platform-preachers to stop giving advice and sit down and be quiet, it is now. 

If ever there was a time to look to the historically and currently oppressed, the people suffering silently and physically, the people we don’t normally turn to for answers, it’s now. If ever there was a time for our own talk to die down so their voices could be heard—well, isn’t this the time?  

“His Eye Is On The Sparrow” was written by Civilla D. Martin. In 1905, she and her husband met a couple, the wife bedridden and the husband in a wheelchair. 

“Despite their afflictions,” wrote Civilla, “they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them.” Civilla’s husband asked the couple their secret, and the woman replied, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” 

Teach me, wheelchair-bound and silently afflicted. Teach me, black women and Hispanic women and all the women. Teach me what you know about the Resistance. Teach me about a Love that clings. Teach me what you know about freedom. Teach me what your grandmothers taught you about lifting your head high and keeping on. Teach me what your grandmothers taught you about rolling up your sleeves and doing the work. 

Undone leads to humbled. Humbled leads to listening. Teach me.  

 

His Eye Is On The Sparrow 

Lyrics by Civilla D. Martin

Composed by Charles H. Gabriel

 

Why should I feel discouraged?

And why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart feel lonely

And long for heavenly home

When Jesus is my portion?

And my constant friend is He

You know, his eye is on the little sparrow

And I know he cares for you and me

His eye is on the little sparrow

And I know God is watching over you and me

I sing because my soul is a happy

I sing because I’m free

For His eye, it is on the little sparrow

And I know He’s watching over you and me

 

*https://www.thegoodbook.com/his-testimonies-my-heritage

Sarah Guerrero
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