(I’m Gonna Let It Shine?)
Once upon a time I loved to sing. When I was little, before the age of 6, I would sing out loud, unrestrained, for all to hear. I have a distinct memory of standing on the over-sized hearth in the family room of our new house in Mississippi, only a few weeks before Christmas when I was 5. This was my stage, front and center, and I would belt out the new song I had just learned at my new school, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” There was going to be a Christmas concert soon, and since I had only just arrived, I had to learn all the songs fast if I wanted to be part of the show. And oh, how I did! And so I practiced from my new stage, and sang my little heart out, despite the mixed-up feelings I had inside.
It is not lost on me now, as an adult, the irony of this particular choice of song being sung at a school concert in Mississippi. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African-American spiritual song, not something that I had even heard of in my native state of Texas. But it was a Christmas carol staple in my new hometown, one where the public schools were still being forced in integrate in the 1980s and the KKK was a regular fixture on the street corner near our new home. On our first trip to the grocery store, I wondered out-loud to my mother why those men were in their Halloween costumes when it was clearly Christmastime. We had only moved 450 miles, but it felt like we moved into an entirely new dimension, backwards in time perhaps. We were most definitely not in Texas anymore.