Advent, Day 24

LOOK: Night Travelers by Delita Martin

Martin, Delita_Night Travelers
Delita Martin (American, 1972–), Night Travelers, 2016. Gelatin printing, conté, collage, fabric, hand-stitching, and decorative paper, 72 × 149 in.

I saw an exhibition last year of Delita Martin’s work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, and I was so taken by it. Though this piece wasn’t included, I was able to get a good sense of Martin’s unique technical approach, which combines printmaking, drawing, painting, and hand-stitching. The strength of African American women is a key theme in Martin’s work, as are African tradition, community, memory, and the spirit world.

LISTEN: “For the Long Night” by Dan + Claudia Zanes, on Let Love Be Your Guide (2021)

Sister, here’s a song for the long night
Sister, here’s a song for the longest night
Sister, here’s a song for the long night
And I’ll sing with you till the morning comes

Brother, here’s a prayer for the long night
Brother, here’s a prayer for the longest night
Brother, here’s a prayer for the long night
And I’ll pray with you till the morning comes

Mama, here’s a dream for the long night
Mama, here’s a dream for the longest night
Mama, here’s a dream for the long night
And I’ll dream with you till the morning comes

Father, what’s your wish for the long night?
Father, what’s your wish for the longest night?
Father, what’s your wish for the long night?
And I’ll wish for you till the morning comes

Neighbor, here’s a hand in the long night
Neighbor, here’s a hand in the longest night
Neighbor, here’s a hand in the long night
And I’ll build with you till the morning comes

And I’ll build with you (We will sing)
Till the morning comes (We will pray)
And I’ll build with you (We will dream)
Till the morning comes

Dan + Claudia Zanes [previously] wrote this song last year during the early waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, premiering it as part of their Social Isolation Song Series on YouTube the week of George Floyd’s murder. It is included on the duo’s debut album in a version that features a kora solo by Amadou Kouyate.

A song of consolation, “For the Long Night” is especially fitting for December 21, the shortest day (longest night) of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes it feels like we’re traveling through a night with no end, with no dawn on the horizon—but realizing that there are others in our boat, making the journey with us, is a tremendous encouragement. Together we must continue to sing, pray, dream, and build “till the morning comes.”

This year for the first time I learned about the Christian tradition of Blue Christmas / Longest Night services. Typically held on the winter solstice (either December 21 or 22), these services hold space for grief, whether over relationship loss or fracture, the death of a loved one, physical or mental health struggles, racialized hate and violence, financial hardship, loneliness, disappointment, or anything else. They also gesture toward hope and healing.

The Rev. Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia has provided a Blue Christmas service outline at The Pastor’s Workshop website, and Marcie Alvis-Walker of @blackcoffeewithwhitefriends has put together A Christmas Liturgy for Those Who Are Mourning.

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