“This wedding is the way the world should be,” Marvin says to me quietly. “Everyone all together.”
I agree with him as I look up from our walk by the banks of the river. We briefly watch my friend Moussa, the groom, dance with his seven year-old daughter who is visiting from Senegal. She’s in a gorgeous little flower girl dress with a big red bow, and the dress spins as she twirls in his arms. Moussa’s wife, my friend Sarah, is a white woman from the Midwest. Around them, the wedding guests are peppered with deep brown, ivory, sand and caramel colors. There are Africans, Wisconsins, Portuguese, New Englanders, Haitians, Irish Americans that lived in West Africa, children of interracial relationships, women in huge dutch wax print head cloths (both white and black women). And they are all having a blast.
We sit down to a meal of curried meat, flatbread, pasta salad, KFC. Before we dig into our plates, Moussa’s daughter stands before the crowd and says a prayer in Arabic. His family is Muslim and it’s Ramadan. His daughter is nervous, standing in front of a crowd of people she doesn’t share a language with. Moussa kneels beside her and prays with her as every pair of eyes at the reception floods with tears.
After his daughter finishes, one of Sarah’s friends says a beautiful Christian prayer, in English. It’s incredible, this cultural mix- not a green salad, not a boiling pot that scalds your fingers. More like melting packages of chocolate chips on the stove under low heat, dark and milk and white and peanut butter chips and butterscotch chips and anything else, taking a wooden spoon and gently swirling all of the flavors together, a new aroma filling a warm kitchen. Even the cake is vibrant and colorful, from red velvet to chocolate peanut butter flavors. You can’t get enough of the variety, the diversity, the richness.
It’s one thing to dream of a world at peace and it’s another thing to see a small sample of it. You see the cliché requests for “Peace on Earth” and it seems so unattainable. And yet you come to this wedding and here we are, Christians and Muslims, Africans and Americans, groups that sometimes seem so separate from one another, and everyone is eating red velvet cake together.
Sometimes I am thick with words, but today I have little commentary. There is nothing to say or analyze. Perhaps it is because there’s too much to comment on. Or perhaps, on the contrary, it is as simple as it is. Maybe this “world peace” is as simple as sitting down and splitting a hunk of red velvet cake.
As the sun goes down, the music turns gradually louder. It’s a masterful mix, first of thick Senegalese beats, then underground hip hop, Michael Jackson (a cultural bridge, if I ever saw one), even some modern throwbacks. Marvin and I get up on the dance floor, the seats empty around us.
Everyone else is dancing.