In a world where everything is breaking news and everyone has a hot take, I’ve lately insisted on taking a step back to consider what’s going on and what it means. So, it wasn’t until Monday night that I sat down and watched Britain’s Prince Harry marry American actress Meghan Markle. Wow!
Truth be told, I slept through Saturday’s royal nuptials. But my Twitter feed and text messages were filled with awe. Not just the expected gushing over a royal wedding. But also of the unexpected symbolism of this modern-day fairy tale. “OMG, you missed maybe the blackest moment in global pop culture since Obama’s election night,” a dear white friend texted me Sunday morning. He didn’t lie.
I was struck by two things as I watched the ceremony. First, the melding of African American culture with British tradition made me incredibly proud of who we are. Proud as an American, and an African American in particular. While watching the stirring sermon by Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, I was moved to tweet that his booming “voice woke the ghosts in that chapel!” Surely the British had never heard anything so loud, so vibrant, in a church. Black preachers are gloriously and willfully ignorant of the constraint of time, so for African Americans, at 13 minutes, Curry’s was a sermonette. With a message of love and redemption, mentions of Martin Luther King Jr. and slavery, the first African American leader of the Episcopal Church knit the British and their American cousins together in a cloak of commonality and shared destiny. He spoke matter-of-factly and without apology, as was befitting such a joyous occasion.
The soulful singing of “Stand by Me” by the British and predominantly black Kingdom Choir was breathtaking. If the wedding was the “blackest moment in global pop culture,” then the choir singing “Amen” and “This Little Light of Mine” as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stood on the chapel steps was its High C. With the exception of perhaps “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” no two songs are more associated with black struggle and striving than those two. For them to be sung in such rarefied air was beyond. So beyond that another dear friend who is fond of saying that she never cries and has no emotions called me in tears after her own delayed viewing of the royal wedding.
But the second and most important thing about the ceremony that struck me, the thing that took hold of my heart and didn’t let go, was Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland. Whether she was in focus in a camera shot or blurry in the background over her daughter’s shoulder, my eyes were drawn to the California social worker. I’ve never met her, but her face — that calm countenance while in the middle of an unbelievably spectacular swirl — was so familiar. I’ve seen that look in my own mother’s eyes and in the eyes of other mothers, filled with pride for their children.
Ragland’s simple elegance and quiet grace personified every black mother awed and humbled that her sacrifices were not in vain. And Twitter follower @RosaLebreaux6 hit the nail on the head when she tweeted at me about Ragland: “She also had the look of … that’s my baby.” Ragland’s baby is now a member of the British monarchy after a wedding that was a beautiful and proud blend of the United States and Great Britain, of the bride’s African American heritage and her newfound place in British history.
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