Martin Luther King Jr.’s words haunt me, “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.”
I’m still not sure I have the right words to say.
And that’s deeply frustrating for me, but I won’t stay silent just because the words are hard to find. I’ve watched far too many people keep their mouths closed because of shame, because they didn’t know what to say. So they said nothing. I’d rather fumble words out of honesty and vulnerability, than clam up and wait until the perfect phrase is intact – because that day may never come.
A week after I came to Minneapolis, 5 black men were shot during a peaceful protest by 3 white supremacists.
“Wait. What?” I yelled in the car to my roommate, Annie. “WHAT FUCKING CENTURY ARE WE IN?! WHITE SUPREMACISTS? HOW DO THEY STILL EXIST?”
I could not wrap my mind around it. Maybe I’ve been sheltered. Maybe I’ve been far too unaware of the race struggles that are still deeply engrained in America. Maybe I just didn’t want to see or hear it. But the word ‘white supremacist’ woke me up, violently; up out of whatever emotional and social self-inflicted coma I was in regarding what is happening in our nation. I cried. And screamed. And shook. Those moments when we are brutally awoken from our ignorance are not fun, and profoundly jarring.
So the next day I went down to the Black Lives Matter protest (where the men had been shot the previous day), and stood with them. Chanting. Yelling. Praying. Side-by-side with what soon became family in my heart. Over 2000 people showed up that day. The Black Lives Matter movement has been strong in Minneapolis recently, because a few weeks before those 5 men were shot, a white cop killed an unarmed black man. And no justice whatsoever has been served. So the people are rising up and crying out. The Black Lives Matter movement has set up a 24/7 protest site outside the police station where this shooting happened. Day in and day out they are there; singing, praying, protesting (peacefully). They were there 17 days, but last night, I received a text at 3:30am from the group saying the police showed up and bulldozed the camp down to the ground. My heart aches. We will protest this injustice today.
One night I was down there, in the freezing cold of Minneapolis, huddled around a bonfire with fellow protesters. People from every race, religion, ethnic background, upbringing and sexual orientation. It’s staggeringly beautiful. A dance party broke out. People were singing and dancing, laughing and embracing each other.
I was talking to a sweet older black man. He grew up on that street (considered the hood of Minneapolis). He told me a story: When he was a little boy, one of the neighbor kids who was 10 or 11, had a birthday. It was the ghetto and probably (if I’m guessing correctly) the 1950s. The little boy was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer. Nothing was done. No protest. Nothing. The man said, “This exact same neighborhood. This exact same precinct. History is repeating itself on my street.” The night before he told me that story he went up to 6 (white) cops outside the precinct and said, “You know, when I was really little, I thought cops were the biggest heroes of all. I wanted to be like you.” He said all the cops started laughing at him and told him to go away. He said as he walked off into the night, as he continued to hear their laughter, he thought, “There are good cops and bad cops. And these are just 6 bad cops. But there are good cops too…. somewhere.”
My heart shattered. Teach me how to hope like that, sweet man. The stories of injustice bleed out into every aspect of this protest. I don’t know much, but I’m here to learn. I don’t know what it feels like to be racially profiled, or discriminated against, or not given a chance, or to feel your life doesn’t matter. I don’t know what it feels like to be afraid of police. I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid to be pulled over or questioned for utterly no reason. I don’t know. But I want to learn. And I want to listen. And I want to honor. And I want to see change.
So then I ended up at a ‘Militant Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Training’ with Reverend Osagyefo Sekou (seriously look this man up. He’s going to change this world single-handedly. Cornel West called while Sekou was talking to us, so we all said hey to Cornel). He flew in just to spend some time with us and train us. I’m not going to go into the training for confidentiality purposes; these kinds of seminars are kept private for a reason. But I will say that it changed my life (and was as intense as the title makes it out to be).
They had leaders pretend to be police trying to break out in a crowd, screaming at people, grabbing them, hitting them. We were taught to go limp and scream, “I AM NOT RESISTING ARREST. YOU ARE HURTING ME”. Over
And I wept.
You don’t realize the power of your own words until you are screaming them. At the top of your lungs. Over and over. It’s almost a transcendent spiritual experience. I can’t explain it well except the words feel the most real they ever have. I think from now on whenever I really want to drill something into my soul, I’ll scream it 100 times.
Hearing, coming out of your own mouth, being screamed, ‘ YOU ARE HURTING ME! I AM NOT RESISTING ARREST. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER,” you cannot help but feel the emotion so deep that the tears stream down.
Rev. Sekou said this phrase during it all (as obviously emotions are high and people don’t know how to feel about all the injustice surrounding them):
“We are not attacking individuals, but an evil system. We are angry, but we don’t let the anger have the last word. We are guided by deep abiding love.”
Deep abiding love.
He asked us to say it, quietly to our souls, and loudly to the world.
Deep abiding love.
All we do, all we believe, all we stand for is birthed out of deep abiding love.
I couldn’t shake that. My cry as I fell asleep that night was, “God teach me deep abiding love. Teach me to let deep abiding love pour out of me into ministry, into relationships, into myself, into humanity, into this world.” Let deep abiding love guide me and lead me in all I do, in all I say, in all I stand for – let it always come back to deep abiding love.
And so I got it tattooed on my body. To remind me, daily, to live out of a place of deep abiding love. No matter the injustice, or anger, or fear, or horror that surrounds me. No matter the situation or circumstance – let me bleed Deep Abiding Love.
(I post this after spending the last 4 hours protesting at city hall and in the streets of downtown Minneapolis. This is just the beginning.)