For Bernardine in her 70th Year! Happy Birthday!!

January 22, 2012

A toast to Bernardine at the wild cast-of-thousands party last night from a sweet Chicago friend:


There are many people who know the name Bernardine Dorhn. We consider ourselves fortunate to know Bernardine, the friend, sister, leader, confidante, advisor, and deep thinker with such a big heart.


If there is anything we strive for in life, it is to walk with integrity, to always have a sense of purpose, to forge committed communities, and to find and embrace joy. In all of this, you are our role model.


Some years ago when we were first falling in love with you, we felt a bit jealous that you traveled so much. We wanted more of you to ourselves. But as time has passed we have come to appreciate that it is a part of how you move in the world and we have come to value the fluid way in which you travel, connect, learn, teach and struggle across all kinds of borders and boundaries. It is a refusal to choose between this or that, between this part of yourself or another, between one curiosity or another. It is to be a revolutionary and to be fully human at the same time. As you go from Colombia to Amsterdam to Cairo and back, you bring with you the wisdom and energy and resolve that reminds us all that we are bigger than we think we are; and while sometimes we may feel we are losing the battle at home, somewhere in the world, ‘we’ (the big we) are claiming victories.


There a southern Black saying that many of our grandmothers, “made a way out of ‘no way.’”  You make a way out of no way everyday to be your generous self, finding time and ‘making time’ in a way that never ceases to amaze us.  You find a way to go see a sick friend and get back to Chicago for a meeting; to play all day with your beloved grand-children and then show up for someone else’s birthday party. You find time to sit with us and talk about family and personal things, and then make your way to a fundraiser – at your house – for Iraqi Vets against the War, or Jobs with Justice, or ARC. It is out of a spirit of such love and generosity for all of us, your motley crew of fans and friends, that you do all that you do. And we love you for it — applauding us, toasting us, nudging us, teaching us, but most of all accepting us. You are truly one of Ella’s Daughters.


Finally, there is that wonderful sense of grace and style that is so seductive and endearing. Beautiful smile, flashing eyes, sexy jeans, a flirtatious tattoo, and those hip red shoes! Mama! Amidst our anger and our rage at all the oppression, suffering and injustice in the world; amidst our frustrations and disappointments that all we do is never quite enough, there is you: beautiful, and defiantly optimistic, and as fierce a fighter as you ever were.


Much love and gratitude for allowing us all to walk this road with you, and to sometimes share the dance floor.