After Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy”
A sermon on love, faith, and queerness
It is 1995. I am standing outside of Mount Nebo Pentecostal Church. White gloves don my caramel-coated hands. I search through my patent leather white purse for hard candy. I find it at the bottom, underneath a collection of used and unused tissues from today’s service. The crumpled dollar my mama gave me for today’s offering is gone rendering my purse useless except for holding these snotrags and the hard candy my grandmama gave me a few Sundays back. I had been saving it for a special day. Ain’t nothing special about today but it’s 1 PM, hot, and I’m hungry. There is no holier time for black folx than Sunday and perhaps for chubby little girls with grandmas, hard candy wrapped in strawberries is the holiest snack.
I put the unwrapped candy in mouth and it takes like old love — like love that has been passed down to you, like love that prays for you, love that knew you before you was even born, like love that gon love you no matter what. It also tastes old because my grandmama probably had it in her purse since before I was even born.
It has been 25 years since that day, 9 since my grandmama died, and 5 since my mama died. These days, my grief teaches me math — adding exponents to its presence in my life on holidays, special occasions, and some days just because it can.
I grew up in a God-fearing family. My mama ain’t go to church every Sunday, but she sent me and my sister with my grandma. When the church split, grandma went with the pastor. He started this little church that met in a school cafeteria down Route 1 in the part of Alexandria that ain’t actually our city. Grandma taught Sunday school. She hated that I did my Sunday school homework on the way to church and still outshined the other kids. She loved that I outshined the other kids. “You got to let the other kids win sometimes,” she told me, chuckling so I knew she was still proud of me for winning the prizes she gave out for memorizing facts about the day’s lesson. On Sunday, we spent hours in the cold cafeteria listening to the pastor preach to the small congregation about prosperity, love, faith, and the rapture. To this day, I worry that when I blink, I may miss the second coming.
Before my sister was born, Sunday belonged to me and grandma. Once Ashley was born, it belonged to the three of us. After church, grandma rewarded us with a delicious meal at one of her favorite buffet restaurants. She ate slowly, each deliberate bite teaching us lessons of patience and appreciation for time. On Sundays, we learned about faith, family, and food.
Grandma had nine kids and seventeen grandchildren. My mama was the oldest and her favorite. While Grandma might’ve lived on Cameron Street, our house on Holmes Run was where traditions happened: Easter egg hunts, Thanksgiving meals, cookouts, game nights, and “just because” gatherings. Those traditions were extensions of Sundays — full of prayers, food, sanging, and laughter. The walls of that house told stories of triumph over illness, passion-filled disagreements, and so much love. The carpet smelled of fried chicken, cocoa butter, and the sweat from a long life’s work. In those moments, I learned how to love, how to fight, how to laugh, how to pray, how to eat, how to dance, how to joan on somebody, how to play cards, how to trash-talk, how to talk about sports, how to not talk about certain stuff; how to be black, faithful, and loved in this world.
When she died, I sat in the basement listening to my mama and her siblings argue about how to bury grandma — who would sing at the funeral, how they would pay for stuff, what color flowers she would have, who would speak, how they would love her back one more time.
Four years later, we lost our house and mama before spring came. Mama’s brothers and sisters showed up just like they did on the weekends for her chili and rummy games. They sang, they prayed, they laughed, they loved us hard like old candy on a Sunday in 1995.
With mama gone, I searched for mama and grandma in them. When I got married the next year, none of them showed up. They did not text or call. They sent no gifts. They did not RSVP. My wife held me in her arms the week before my wedding — tears streaming down my face grieving the loss of old love — my grandmama, my mama, and Sundays that never became Mondays.
My truth was too much for them to bear.
Sundays have never been the same.
I have traded in their love for the truth found in my queerness, for a wife who loves me unconditionally. I have traded buffets for brunch and given up remnants of old love in order to love myself. It don’t mean I don’t miss them though. It just means I have learned that living truthfully requires us to miss some things in life.
I don’t go to church anymore. I supplement King James with James Baldwin, Gloria Anzaldúa, Jericho Brown, and Roxane Gay. I take my communion at Audre Lorde’s table in honor of the Black and Brown queer ancestors who fought so that I may live, in honor of the kids who need me to fight now. Sometimes, I eat hard candies to remind me what old love feels like. Instead of Sundays, I have communion over waffles and eggs. I chat with my wife about our future kids. I will hide hard candies wrapped in strawberries in our kids’ patent leather purses. I will teach them to pray without ceasing — through loving hard and serving others. I will tell them about their grandmama and great-grandmama. I will love them no matter what. I will love them no matter what. I will tell them that blackness and faith have space for them. I will tell them that they are enough. I will always show up for them. In the car, we will listen to Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings” and sing to the top of our lungs.
We will be glad in it.
We will be glad in it.
We will be glad in it.
This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to view yesterday’s blog post by Cornelius Minor (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle).