Gary Percesepe Writes:

I love Ruby Sales. She’s taught us a lot. You can google her sto­ry, see how she lost the abil­i­ty to speak for a spell at sev­en­teen when a white man squeezed the trig­ger of a shot­gun and blew a hole in the body of a young white sem­i­nar­i­an named Jonathon Daniels who had thrown his body in front of Ruby, sav­ing her life, but it’s dif­fi­cult to under­stand the enor­mi­ty of who Ruby Sales is unless you’re will­ing to just sit at her feet and lis­ten to her, which I’ve been lucky enough to do. So tonight when I couldn’t sleep, still hold­ing onto the anger inside of me at a man who gassed pro­test­ers to clear a path in order to bran­dish a bible he hadn’t read in front of a church he didn’t enter and lat­er went to Tulsa to cause more trau­ma, and at a nation that seems to know no bot­tom, I went to her Facebook page and here is what I found:

From my front porch

Tonight is here, and your com­pa­ny inspires me to put my hands on my hips and stare the world straight in the eyes. When I was a young girl, old­er Black women of a cer­tain age per­fect­ed the art of stand­ing back in their legs. Most south­ern Black girls of my gen­er­a­tion or old­er could hard­ly wait to stand back in our legs.

This tra­di­tion died with my grandmother’s gen­er­a­tion who was born in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry and who still car­ried the mem­o­ry of Africa in their stance and rituals.

It took a great amount of courage and risk for Black women to stand back in their legs. It required them to have the courage to be elas­tic and flex­i­ble and not be afraid of falling or los­ing their bal­ance. I like to think that stand­ing back in their legs is a metaphor for the audac­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty that are key and sig­nif­i­cant pos­tures in Black wom­en’s his­to­ry that allowed us to cre­ate for gen­er­a­tions a moun­tain­top con­scious­ness from a val­ley experience.

                                                                                                  –Ruby Sales


Ruby Sales is the founder and direc­tor of the Spirit House Project, a non-prof­it that works towards racial, eco­nom­ic, and social jus­tice. As a teenag­er at Tuskegee University in the 1960s, she joined the Student Nonviolent Coördinating Committee (SNCC) and went to work as a stu­dent free­dom fight­er in Lowndes County, Alabama. A social activist, schol­ar, pub­lic the­olo­gian, and edu­ca­tor, Sales has preached around the coun­try on race, class, gen­der and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. She has degrees from Tuskegee Institute, Manhattanville College, and Princeton University. She also received a Masters of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in 1998.

Gary Percesepe is the author of eight books, most recent­ly The Winter of J, a poet­ry col­lec­tion pub­lished by Poetry Box. He is Associate Editor at New World Writing. Previously he was an assis­tant fic­tion edi­tor at Antioch Review. His work has appeared in Christian Century, Maine Review, Brevity, Story Quarterly, N + 1, Salon, Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, Westchester Review, PANK, The Millions, Atticus Review, Antioch Review, Solstice, and oth­er places. He resides in White Plains, New York, and teach­es phi­los­o­phy at Fordham University in the Bronx.