Susan Badeau

There are only two lasting gifts we can give our children - one is roots, the other is wings


The Magnolia Still Rises

Posted by Sue Badeau on September 26, 2016 at 4:25 PM

When, in my travels, I come upon a magnolia tree, I cannot help but to hear the hauntingly painful and yet beautiful voice of Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit." (written by Abel Meeropol in 1937) You can listen to it here if you like.

Today, I shared a profoundly moving experience with two close friends, sisters, comrades in social justice work. We stood at the foot of an exquisite magnolia, a magnolia that had served as the "whipping post" on the former slave plantation, transformed into a school and college to educate African American students and transformed more recently by the UCC into a retreat center (learn more here)

Whipping post.

Tears came, almost immediately as we approached this grand tree with such a complex and profound history. 

I used to write poetry a lot. I don't so much any more, but today, the words spilled out and formed a poem. I share it with you here. - First the photos of the moment that inspired this poem:

The Magnolia Still Rises

Mighty magnolia

Rising skyward, powerful aroma

Roots deep in the rich soil

Soil darkened by the blood

of my African brothers and sisters

Sons, daughters

Men, women, children

“Unruly” slaves they were called

Brought to Franklinton to break them

Whip them




Are you broken yet?

On this earth

In this soil

blood mingles with tears

Tears of weeping mothers

whose babies’ backs

Are shredded and ribboned with scars

On this earth

In this soil

blood mingles with

Sweat and saliva

The sweat of slave overseers breathing heavily

as they wield the whip 

The saliva of slave masters as they spit at the men,

Women, children who brave the pain stoically

Or with shrieking cries

Spitting at them to deny their humanity

Spitting so not to see them

Not to hear them

Whip them




Are you broken yet?

But look,

the magnolia still rises

Her branches still strong

Her scent still perfumes the air

Triggering Pain,


Memories deep in the core

of the soul

The magnolia still rises

Her branches laden with seed pods

Ready to salt the earth with new growth

New hopes

New dreams

New visions for a brighter day

When the magnolia blossom

may once again smell fragrant

In solidarity we press our hands

Into her trunk

Sharing the pain of generations

Expressing the hope within us

The magnolia still rises

We will not be broken.

Categories: Hope for the Journey - Devotional Reflections