As Christians celebrated Easter this weekend and Jews gathered for the Passover Seder, many also looked beyond the bible to the here and now for signs of hope and rebirth.
Russia’s war on Ukraine, clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and violent weather events dominated last week’s news. But there was much that was positive too, for anyone looking for it.
The preacher at one service in Philadelphia admitted, though she was often asked, that she hadn’t a clue what life was like after death. So, instead of a literal resurrection story for Easter morning, she found inspiration in a marriage ceremony that took place during the week on the scrappy outskirts of Kyiv. The bride wore fatigues, and the wedding party (all of whom were in Ukraine’s territorial reserve) carried rifles and RPGs.
A vivid demonstration, ran The Washington Post’s headline, that – even in war – life and love must go on.
Back home, public and private spaces across America’s north-east are finally emerging from the big chill and bursting with new life. Close on the daffodils and Japanese cherries have come the tulips.
In the garden of the nation’s first hospital in Philadelphia, founded by Ben Franklin and Dr Thomas Bond in 1751, in a blaze of red and yellow, some two thousand now bloom.
I was reminded too of the wonderful example of resilience and reinvention set by Betty Reid Soskin, America’s oldest park ranger.
The child of Louisiana Creole parents, Betty was born in 1921 when the lynching of Blacks was a national epidemic, white women had only just been enfranchised, and most African-Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all.
After her family relocated to California, Betty’s remarkable life, recalled in her 2018 memoir ‘Sign My Name to Freedom’, encompassed war service in the factories of the home front to founding a Gospel music store in Berkeley in 1945 (only recently closed) to community activism and songwriting for the Civil Rights Movement.
At the age of 82, Betty left her state job to help create the Rosie the Riveter, World War II National Historical Park in Richmond, California, where the role of women and African-Americans in the war industries is explored and honored. Betty became a park ranger there after its completion, helping to interpret the history for visitors.
Betty finally retired from the National Park Service at the end of March this year. 100 years young.
“What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering.”
Betty Reid Soskin (1921 – )
Peter Coë; April 18, 2022
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