Guest Blog: Deliverance
Melissa Malcom King
Adapted from an address Melissa Malcom King gave at the ADA 32nd Anniversary Celebration in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I was born in a cage welded together by generational trauma and addiction, systemic racism, and immense poverty. For years, I tried desperately to pick the lock of inhumanity, squeeze through the bars of injustice, and otherwise escape from this prison. Society has created a jury that constantly sends me judgments through scorns, basis, gentle prejudice, and empathic silence. There seems to be no way out, yet there continues to be a way for my convictions to increase, and I find myself constantly on trial for things I cannot change.
Tethered to this Jail Cell, I can go about the world accomplishing tremendous and wonderous things, but the reality is that I am never free from the anguish and sorrow that comes with being looked upon by the world as less than. The voices surrounding my tethered chain say I am not good enough, I am not trying hard to overcome the perceived burden, or I simply do not have sufficient faith in God to pray it away. This weight for so long bogged me down, wore me out, and put me in a place of despair so tremendous and wonderous that I welcomed that prison and called it home.
I did not leave my prison, and the tether became another lock by which I was further bound. I sat huddled in the corner, listening to the world's narratives, and reviewing the bloody blueprint describing my destructive destiny. I followed every direction, took every desperate measure to model myself after, and conform to the cisgender, abled-bodied white prototype described therein. The resulting product created a fragmented and disjointed soul who no longer felt life was worth living.
In the corner of my prison, I saw a crawl space with illuminating light beckoning me to come forward. At first, I ignored it out of fear, believing I was not worthy of Deliverance. Slowly, I took Deliverance by one sweaty finger, then by the hand, and finally a long, slow, wonderous embrace that I never let go of. Still, sometimes I want to run back to this prison when interactions with others cause the tether to suffocate my soul. But through Deliverance, I found my freedom papers and the courage to build a refuge of hope.
Deliverance was always in the shadows, mourning the loss of my authenticity, pleading, and beckoning to heal the darkest parts of my soul. Her wailing went unheard until I realized that life is not what I was born into but what I would embrace and accept, thereby creating the most magnificent version of myself. This realization came over time as I noticed others who not only reached towards freedom but became trailblazers in creating worldwide change. It likewise came when I saw those in cages smaller than mine reaching out in the darkness, pleading for my support. Through their strength, I accepted that I was never defective but had falsely believed in a dysfunctional destiny that was never meant to be mine in the first place.
Even still, Deliverance did not instantly become a family member but a guest that gently wore down my perceived unworthiness through slow and gentle intrusion. She reached out but did not prevent the glass of hatred from cutting me from the inside, nor muffle the voices of those who believed I would never be able to continue my journey nor ever access sufficient tools to build a more extraordinary life. Over time, I became a Master Carpenter rebuilding my soul and creating a refuge by which I could thrive.
Do not be fooled. This house of refuge has broken glass, leaks, and poorly remodeled areas. There are endless cracks in the foundation of my self-esteem, and my emotional roof is missing shingles, creating holes of self-doubt. Nevertheless, this house has authenticity, self-pride, and abounding love. It is a place where even dreams believe, and lives are changed through deliberate action and intent to share Deliverance with others who are also lifelong prisoners.
It is in this house that I thrive because, despite never being able to be too far from the cage I was born into, I can use my tether to create further empathy and motivation to increase more remarkable change, one action, one moment, and one person at a time. This mission carries me through the darkest hour, most intense pain, and emotional sorrow, and it is this mission that brings deliverance repeatedly.
There may be many among us who question how it is plausible to become genuinely liberated when so many things imprison our souls and strip away our freedoms. I have learned that liberation begins with a change in mentality where I no longer accept the vile and disgusting titles others place upon me as legitimate and acceptable. I can no longer hold space for those with privilege who wish to offer a silent apathetic tolerance. I demand to be in the presence of those who wish to not only join in the celebration but work tirelessly to create places of inclusion alongside the marginalized.
Today, the door to the less-than-perfect refuge I built is open, with my vulnerabilities exposing an ongoing process of healing framework. I have multiple visitors, but all are not welcome to stay as their presence seeks to dismantle my peace. Those who reside have joined me as either fellow family members or nurturing caregivers. Whichever the case, there is always a room for my most special guest, who has never left my side. She has diverse titles: Nurturer, Lover, Compassionate Giver, Sibling, Queen, King, Advocate, Freedom Fighter, Queer, Intersex, Disabled, Person of Color, and Deliverance.
My name is Deliverance. Won't you take me by the hand?