Monday, August 13, 2018

Soul Sustenance: All the Colors We Will See

In today’s current climate now more than ever our differences are on display and for African Americans, it remains a constant struggle to formulate and find positive images. Patrice Gopo offers her first book, All the Colors We Will See, as a way for readers to understand our differences and ways to connect.
Through personal stories, shared memories and honest experiences Gopo provides a deep look into the search for identity and belonging. In All the Colors We Will See she delves into our current state that is grappling with the realities of racial injustices, an explosion of immigration issues  and invites readers to join her as she searches for where SHE fits in against the backdrop of her faith in God, and encourages others to find what truly unites us.
Patrice Gopo spent her formative years in Anchorage, Alaska, growing up as a black American, but her Jamaican parents had little experience in what it means to be black in America. Feelings of being different are occasional twinges for some, but for Patrice, this was the reality of her everyday life. While dealing with the mixture of identities that swirled around her and formed her journey, she examines the complexities of identity formation in our modern world where cultures intersect and overlap as she weaves together rich details and thoughtful commentary to create a layered collection of essays.

I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

Why did you decide to write this book?

We live in a time when our society is grappling with the reality of broken race relations and the growth of immigration. As the black daughter of Jamaican immigrants who was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, I know I have a unique perspective. I wrote All the Colors We Will See because I believe my personal stories related to race relations, immigration, and identity formation can contribute to our current national and global dialogues. I think of the essays in the book as a gift to our world. It’s a gift of affirmation to those who may have lived experiences similar to mine. It’s a gift to people who will read these words and discover something new. Ultimately, I wrote this book to help foster greater understanding about the breadth of human experience.

How can faith be such a great foundation for unity between different groups of people?

I think it’s possible that faith can potentially be a foundation for unity. Honestly, however, I have also experienced the way that faith can divide people. One of the essays in All the Colors We Will See deals with a painful experience where someone who shared my faith made a very racist comment directed at me. Sadly, I know this experience is not unique. This makes me think that perhaps it isn’t necessarily faith that serves as the great foundation. Instead, I wonder if beneath a foundation of faith, there is a call to affirm the full humanity of every single person. In a space where we recognize each other’s full humanity, I believe this draws us together beneath the reality of our shared desires for basic human wants like safety, security, love, etc.

How can people determine whether or not they may be holding views that work against unity?

I hold a basic belief that every single human being is created in the image of God. And because of this reality, just as my story matters in our world, every other person’s story matters too. I think we can often run into problems when we travel down a path where we don’t fully affirm that another human being’s story is holy and important and matters in our world.

Why is it so important to seek unity, even when we disagree?

Oh, this is an interesting question. As I consider the idea, I find myself wondering if I fully agree that it’s important to seek unity even when we disagree. Sometimes the existence of oppression creates disagreements. If that’s the case, I’m not sure unity is possible there.

I actually wonder if what might be even more important than seeking unity when we disagree is seeking to ensure that we recognize and affirm each other’s humanity. I think we can easily dehumanize people who disagree with us. We do this by creating categories of “us” and “them.” We do this when we mock people who don’t share our beliefs. But in the act of affirming the full humanity of another person, we work toward restoring dignity to all people. I think this is what ultimately brings us together. So maybe it’s not so much about the pursuit of unity, but instead about considering the ways our society has dehumanized certain people. We work to overcome this thinking even if we may not agree with another’s beliefs or values. Perhaps the outpouring of this work is a sense of unity.

Patrice Gopo is a 2017-2018 North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellow. She is the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way (August 2018), an essay collection about race, immigration, and belonging. Please visit to learn more.

Facebook: @patricegopowrites
Instagram/Twitter: @patricegopo

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