“ The chorus is the vehicle for another kind of story, not of the great man or the tragic hero, but one in which all modalities play a part, where the headless group incites change, where mutual aid provides the resource for collective action, not leader and mass, where the untranslatable songs and seeming nonsense make good the promise of revolution. The chorus propels transformation. It is an incubator of possibility, an assembly sustaining dreams of the otherwise. Somewhere down the line the numbers increase, the tribe increases. The chorus increases. So how do you keep on? She can’t help it. . . . The struggle is eternal. Somebody else carries on.
All of the details of the nothing special and the extraordinary brutality cohere to produce a picture of the world in all its beauty and death. In the whimsical girlish tones, in the loud laughter and the back-and-forth exchange of the hallway, in the girls dancing in the stairwell is a will to unsettle, destroy, and remake that is so forceful it takes the breath away, so palpable it makes you reel with pain. To fall in step with the chorus is to do more than shake your ass and hum the melody, or repeat the few lines of the bit part handed over like a gift from the historian, as if to say, See, the girl can speak, or to be grateful that the sociologist has taken a second look and recognizes the working out of “revolutionary ideals” in an ordinary black woman’s life. Guessing at the world and seizing at chance, she eludes the law and transforms the terms of the possible.
The bodies are in motion. The gestures disclose what is at stake—the matter of life returns as an open question. The collective movement points toward what awaits us, what has yet to come into view, what they anticipate—the time and place better than here; a glimpse of the earth not owned by anyone. So everything depends on them and not the hero occupying center stage, preening and sovereign. Inside the circle it is clear that every song is really the same song, but crooned in infinite variety, every story altered and unchanging: How can I live? I want to be free. Hold on.”
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments
Norton paperback 2020, pp. 348-349