We’ve Come This Far By Faith…
This time of year brings about traditions together with recipes that conjure up some of your fondest memories. For the holidays are normally joyous times with unforgettable moments. One memory that keeps flashing in my mind with the current state of this nation, was a story I learned as a child over sugar cookies with jelly filled centers. It would be my first time ever hearing of Mahalia Jackson as well as my first history lesson in injustice.
The same injustice that we seem to still be fighting.
It was a cold winter that year in North Carolina, which brought hopes of snowflakes and snowballs, none of which we would see that December. However the weather kept us inside, my Granny and I. Snuggled together in the interior of that little yellow kitchen with flowered linoleum floors and the washing machine that would shake the stove during it’s spin cycle. They were side by side you see. As we rolled out dough and cut out cookies, I listened to my Granny sing..
“We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord… Trusting in his holy word.. He’s never failed me yet”
” Oh Oh Oh..Can’t turn around, we’ve come this far by faith”
She sang this with such passion and spirit that I found myself singing along with just as much zeal. All the while having no concept of the true emotion that song brought about.
“There was a time we had to fight for the same rights, sweet pea. We sang and marched so that we could be treated equally and fairly.. it was a very sad time back then” is what she told me.
Indeed it is a very sad time right now….
She sang more songs and described the first time she heard Mahalia Jackson sing “Just a closer walk with thee”.
I can’t recount that part of the story word for word but her singing,just the thought has me in tears as I remember her singing, hear her voice in my head. She was just so passionate about that one particular song..
“These songs.. they filled us with hope, that God was watching and that the battle is not lost… we truly had come so far by faith.. we had to keep believing in that”
She would hold steadfast to that faith until the day she died.
The story itself was of the first time she made those cookies we were preparing and took them to a mother who had just lost her son. Like I said I can not recount her version however my mother.. her version I can recall word for angry word..
“It was 1956, his name was Lee, we were in the same English class. He was walking home from the park and cut through the wrong neighborhood. We weren’t allowed to walk through they’re F-king neighborhood Erika, can you imagine how that feels? They shot him, said he was a robber.. What he was… was g-damn a straight A student walking home from the park..!”
She was so angry.. so very very angry.. even some 30 years later.
Never ever in my life would I think I would have to try to explain anything like this to my kids almost 60 years later.
The story is different now but the feelings are the same.
I’m at such a loss.. Sitting in my chair watching the world unfold on my tv screen. Since I cook when I’m angry, my kitchen has been filled to the brim yet I just couldn’t bring myself to post, couldn’t bring myself to do anything but cry thinking of my mother’s pain masked as anger over losing a friend and Granny’s singing and her undying faith even during times of such adversity.
With so much of the conversations around race and diversity being driven by the media, the narrative of the events in the Eric Gardner and Michael Brown cases are sometimes confusing to the generation that will eventually lead us.
I feel this is an issue that should be rectified..
The questions from my teenage daughter are endless and heartbreaking.
“Do they really hate us.. the police I mean.. should I really be afraid of them? I don’t want to be treated differently mama..”
I try to explain.. I do..
Yet, I don’t understand myself and unfortunately she will always be treated differently.
So Sunday, as we made these cookies, I just couldn’t help myself..I started singing..
“We’ve come this far by faith” She joined in and I told her as much as I could remember of the story the first time Granny heard Mahalia Jackson sing at a civil rights rally in Birmingham Alabama. What that rally was about and the change it brought about. I told her the story of Lee Washington the reason behind those actions and the heartbreak that it caused. Yet explained how far we’ve come and how we have to believe that there are good and bad cops.. that the battle is not lost, we will keep fighting for justice. Peacefully on the right side of the law.
The cookies we made way back when were simple sugar cookies with a thumbprint in the middle and some peach preserves spilling over the centers, much different from these meticulous Linzer cookies my daughter chose to make. I have to say how truly blessed I was to have stood in the kitchen of Geraldine G Dortch, my granny. Where I listened to each and everyone one of her stories and sang each and everyone of her songs. To be able to hear the first hand accounts of walking for miles to boycott the bus in 1955 to how on a Wednesday in 1963 she stood on Lincoln Memorial and heard that I Have a Dream speech, her arms linked with those around her.. singing…
“We can’t turn around.. we’ve come this far by faith”
*Baking cookies and cakes and pies is not my strong suit..(I mean I really have to think about it) You can hear a lot of NSFW language if you’re ever in my presence while making a layer cake. Luckily my daughter picks up where I lack. She made these cookies with little help from me. She’s my brightest star who stands in some of those shots that you see on this blog. However this time she was the cook and her excitement was infectious, so much so that I had to share.*
Much Love and Peace My Friends.
Prep Time- 35 mins + 4-24 hours chill time Cook Time- 12-14 mins Yield- 12 cookies
Adapted from Southern Living and Smitten Kitchen