The future is brighter than ever, the ink of Black history is still wet.

Every bit of pain inflicted upon us, all of the struggles and all of the triumphs are squares in the quilt of the Black experience. This month is the time that’s been set aside to take a look at the hands of our elders, trace the stories that rest in their palms with our fingertips and hold them tightly as we brave a world that is not so different from the one they faced.

The past year has been indescribable. There is a global pandemic which was handled in a horrifying fashion by the last administration, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. It is not lost on us how the Black and the poor were forced to bear the worst of it and how Black women were called upon to be saviors, even as we were actively being failed. Then, we learned of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, rallied in the streets for justice and wailed loudly over how we were being killed for being. It was impossible to remove these instances from the forefront of our minds. We could not help but call back to the stories of old, the ones we prayed would be restricted to some other time but this one. We grimaced, remembered and maintained that the light of hope would shine through the veil of grief so that we could pass a gentler, kinder, more free world to those who inherit it.

That faith—silent beseechings and inner knowings—has been the very stock of our existence since cold, rusted metals clenched our wrists and ankles. It has kept us, enabled us to make history and stand tall in it. We have risen from every low, rotted place and thrived because, well, that’s what we do. It is what we have always done. We know hell only in passing, not because it is not continuously brought to us, but because we fashion it into sacred, stunning experiences.

Thick curls tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker, Black hair care extraordinaire. Our fists relay the teachings of Minister Malcolm X, a man of principle and equity. Hearts pump to the sizzling beats of jazz’s Max Roach and Questlove. Our eyes have seen the marigold glory referenced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our minds retain the knowledge the Little Rock Nine fought for. We live this, we are this.

It is now that we uplift ourselves and our brilliant tendencies, laugh with one another (even as we are apart), and widen our eyes at all of the splendor we have provided. We can also look at our own hands, slightly cracked from hard work on societal issues that should have never been, but still fresh and prepared to grip the reins of the days to come. Joy is deep in our bones, guiding our souls and carrying us through, today and forevermore.