“Ancestors never die until there is no one to call their names.” ~ An African Proverb
“Some people are your relatives, others are your ancestors and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors.” ~ Ralph Ellison
Dr. Yolanda Pierce posted these two quotes in her wonderful blog on Día de los Muertos ~ All Saints Day. I have been singing “For All the Saints” and “I Sing A Song of the Saints of God” since Sunday when I began this year’s celebration in the company of an All Saints Church. Dr. Pierce’s post of Ellison’s quote affirms my practice of calling on a wide circle of names as my ancestors. I call the name of my ancestors who are the saints of God today and whenever I remember them.
I call the names of my grandmothers, Louvenia and Virlee.
I call the names of biblical foremothers, Hagar and Miryam and D’vorah andMiryam of Nazareth and Miryam of Migdala and Junia and Priscilla.
I call the names of the ancestors I have chosen, I start with the artist Robert Moore whose art gave me a vision of all the saints, past and present. (His “Sanctuaries of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas” is above.)
I call the names of Harriet Tubman, Susanna Wesley, Mary McCloud Bethune, Billie Holliday, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, Coretta Scott King, Lesbia Scott.
Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malik El-Hajj El-Shabazz, Howard Thurman, Uncle Melvin, I call your names.
For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!
I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too.
They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, in church, by the sea,
in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too.