I returned to my hometown of East Lansing, Michigan this past week, for a series of author talks, interviews and photo shoots surrounding the release of my first book, Deep Dark Blue. Though we are well into spring, according to the calendar, the mercury in the thermometer danced its usual erratic motion. Michigan may be known for its brutal winters, cold temperatures, record inches of snow, weather at the mercy of the powerful lake-effect of our Great Lakes, and thousands of additional beautiful, (slightly-smaller-than-great) good lakes, however, it is also known for its magical, distinct four seasons that reveal themselves no matter how intensely the previous season has blown through or lingered in the area.
This past particular winter has been especially brutal, in more ways than one. Not only was the snow heavy—nearly burying the entire college town housing Michigan State University—but the icy, felonious chill in the air was absolutely exacerbated by the largest sexual assault scandal that this state, this country has witnessed to date—with the horrific MSU Sports Medicine, Dr. Larry Nassar, and USA Gymnastics debacle. Watching the unraveling of such hideous, insidious, prolific devastation, I did not know if my hometown would survive such a hypothermic deep freeze.
And yet, as I stepped off the plane in Lansing, and turned into my old neighborhood, there they were: tiny, but bright, battered but hearty, struggling but resilient: nature’s brand new buds of spring. Biology at its finest, reminding us that life can, in fact, go on; that each season, each day we are born anew; that dastardly as it may seem, abundance reigns, flowers bloom again, and our souls can survive threats, violence, the torturous hibernation of solitude only to bloom again—brighter, stronger, more creatively fertile. Not even the most maniacal monsoon, the most treacherous tornado leaving a broken, perverted, predatory path of pain in its wake can stop the eventual bloom of the smallest bud peaking its head out of the thawing earthen womb of recovery.
My first invitation was to the Michigan State Museum where the directors there have been persistent enough to co-create—with the HUNDREDS of incredibly strong, fierce, amazing “Sister Survivors” and their “Posse” of mothers—a bold, powerful and profound exhibit as an instrument of healing and #findingourvoice through the darkness.
In addition to that inimitable and inspiring exhibit tour, I have been honored to continue to stand inside a sacred circle of Sister Survivors carved out of the emotional wreckage, reclaimed from the revolting, unconscionable rubble, and open to the resilient rebirth of their blooming hearts; of their parents’ ebullient bond, and their supporters’ compassionate souls. Every talk I was fortunate enough to give, every beautiful soul I was honored enough to interact with, every eager spirit I was humbled to connect with on a cellular level, was met with raw and utter authenticity. Such that each event inspired a deeper planting of hope...a burgeoning seedling of desire to turn this burial into a baptismal garden.
We are blessed—in this very moment—to witness, to partake of, to stand inside a circle of awakening so profound, that we must honor the space that survivors have created—that we survivors have pushed and pulled at the societal framework, insulting ignorance and negative connotation, to open up—to have conversations that have not been had before; to go, as a society, as a family, as an individual, where we have not gone before...
Out of the Deep Dark Blue, and into a bright beautiful new...You.
Out of the icy deep freeze of despair and denial that sexual assault, violence, harassment can incite, and into the bright green—or perhaps brilliant #TEAL—bud, and baptismal bloom of a new day, a new perspective, a new understanding of our own self worth, self love, self acknowledgement. Let us stand, hand in hand, inside this sacred, inclusive circle of compassion.
Who knows? We just may wrap our hands, our hearts, our souls around the world.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]