My Soul Cries Out for Rain

I used to be able to tell time by the thunderstorms back home in South Carolina. Every summer evening in June around about 7 p.m., you could expect the sky to start booming and rolling. Rain would pour.

It would send me scurrying to collect a book from the stack I had just checked out from the County Library and onto the couch in the living room to read. The TVs throughout the house were turned off. “This is the Lord’s work,” my mother would say. That’s what her mother had said to her.

That was nearly ten years ago. Before my parents relocated to Utah for work. I was in college when the move happened, and I didn’t think that I’d mind it much. I was only home for a few holidays out of the year and a couple of months in the summer. That was two years ago. I never imagined that I would be moving back home after graduating – back home to Utah.

It never rains here. The air gets thick with dust, and I swear it gets hard to breathe sometimes. The kids I worked with at a summer camp were constantly running to me with bloody noses. It dries everything out.

My soul cries out for rain.

Down Home holds a particular and peculiar place in my heart now. I grew up there. I left there for Ohio to go to college. Now I live in Utah. I know that I don’t really want to return to South Carolina to live full time, but something about the summer there calls to me.

My memory is full of family and love and tight squeezes on my Grandma’s front porch. I see people that look like me. Big hipped Aunties and tall, skinny “fast-tailed” teenagers. Utah is the first place that I have ever been where the automatic expectation for every space I enter is that no one will look like me here.

My soul cries out for rain.

When I told my friends that my family was moving, they all responded the same: “Are there even Black people in Utah?”

“A few,” I replied.

As I write this, my Daddy is preparing to go preach at a Black Baptist church in one of the neighboring towns. In being here, I’ve noticed that Black people seem to worship the same no matter where on earth we are. Why is that? The Deacon Board still leads the morning devotion just like they did at my backwoods church in South Carolina.

Yesterday, I was at a church cookout, and there was a group of Black men cackling as they slapped big, off-white dominoes on the table. The Culture does exist here. But it’s hard to find; we must grasp so tightly at the strings that tie us to one another and pull ourselves together just to gather a visible dot of Blackness.

My soul cries out for rain.

For a long time, Black people were barred from priesthood in Mormonism completely. Now, that’s changed, and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints has issued an official statement disavowing racism.

But kids still stare at me in the store, and folks talk about my hair and skin like I’m some kind of novelty experience.

I’m not trying to become a Mormon, but every church with a long, pointy steeple that I ride past is a reminder of just how unequal I am here.

My soul cries out for rain.

Let the thunder roll and the sky turn Black.