The Gift of Grace

Suzanne Pharr February 12th, 2009

On the evening of January 31, 2009 at the annual Creating Change Conference, I was honored by Queers for Economic Justice for my “years of work on economic justice and LGBT liberation.” In response to requests for my short acceptance speech, I am posting it here.

(Acceptance of award from Queers for Economic Justice at Creating Change 2009)

The Gift of Grace

My work is honored here tonight, I believe, because I was given the gift of grace.

In my religious tradition—Methodist—which I left at a very young age but not before it made a permanent mark on me, I recall that Grace is defined as a realm of good you are given, not because you earned it or necessarily deserve it.

When I think back to the gifts of grace in my life, I remember

my farm parents in Georgia who worked through poverty and disability to raise their 8 children and support their church and community. They gave me my life, my values, my determination.

those teachers at the Women’s College of Georgia—a tiny college for the daughters of shopkeepers and farmers—who slipped anonymous envelopes containing $10 and $20 into my college post office box. Those great single women—lesbians all, I think—made it possible for me to go to school when I was down to the last penny from my wages.

the people of color—especially Civil Rights leaders and other women of color—who had deep conversations with me, who challenged me, who confronted me, who shared with me our Southern culture, who joined me in laughter and struggle. They never cast me aside.

people of every generation across race, class and gender—and especially the young—who shared their lives and their ideas and invited me to be a comrade.

I have tried to return that gift of grace in my work and life.

My role in this movement has been to listen to what you have said, to make a composite of it, to put it in plain language, and to reflect it back to you—because it is yours.

My passionate love of ideas and action has been nurtured by your own. You have given me the space and time and patience to work and grow with you.

That is an act of love, community, and grace.

I thank you for it.

3 Responses to “The Gift of Grace”

  1. Kay Whitlockon 12 Feb 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Suzanne, this is beautiful.

    Thank you.

  2. Kara Keelingon 12 Feb 2009 at 7:57 pm

    This is a terrific, moving acceptance speech! Thank you for sharing it & congratulations on your award.

  3. Martha Garciaon 05 Mar 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Do you remember me?
    Like your training in the methodist church, you left an indeleable mark in me. In the 80’s your ‘brand’ of femnism was like music to my ears.
    You brought together for me, a young poor immigrant latina feminist lesbian, the issues and gave me the perspective that I needed to be in the world.
    I am so glad you continue to receive awards for your powerful work.
    I think about you often. You continue to inspire me.
    I would love to reconnect with you.

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