I took this photo last week, when my four year old and I went to pick up a book order from Moon Palace Bookstore in south Minneapolis. After we grabbed our books, Finn wanted to follow the rivulets of rain through the sidewalk cracks, so we wandered the alleyways tracing through the tiny streams as they wound their ways to large, dirty puddles and rust covered storm sewers. The buildings we walked past still bear the scars of last summers’ anger. Some are demolished, some charred, some barricaded. Finn moved with the rainwater, unaware of these still monuments guarding our way. I took this photo as we walked, struck by the contrast. Yes, my spirit responded, this is so true, and holy and beautiful--life does find a way.
But what does that mean in the ugly violence and death of this week? Because death is also finding a way, a too-easy, direct path to our brothers and sisters of color. Death finds an easy way through our cracked and broken systems of policing. An easy way through the poverty, hunger, and homelessness we allow in our world. An easy way through the community trauma we don’t care to see or stop or heal. An easy way through people refusing COVID precautions and vaccines. An easy way through hearts unwilling to trust and ears unwilling to believe our brothers and sisters of color when they say, “I can’t breathe.”
And lives are washed away. And people suffer needlessly. And the cost is terribly high for us all.
Daunte Wright, we did not do enough to stop the stream of death that was heading your way.
Monday, when I attended Healing Our City (a daily prayer event happening virtually each morning at 8:00), people from all over the country, people of all faiths, people of so many races, grieved Daunte’s death together--that wasn’t the plan. The event is held each day to remember the death of George Floyd, speak holy truth to white supremacy and oppression, and tend to the healing of our city. Grief was raw for everyone in attendance on Monday. The imam who spoke, Dr. Rami Nashishibi, read words of mercy from the Koran upon us. He spoke of crying out to your mother in death, the physical source of your life but also a communal mama, a mama known by slavery’s descendants, a mama that is 400 years of oppression, trauma, tears, struggle and death. His song, Mama, Please, is worth a listen.
And I don’t know how to tie this all together except to say that we must mother each other like never before. We must fiercely protect the most vulnerable. We must say a charged, NO, to the policies and people protecting institutions full of violence. We must courageously and tenderly sit with death, show-up alongside it, nodding our heads and holding hands when there are no words to say.
Death will keep trickling, streaming, rushing towards our communities of color. This isn’t unstoppable. These deaths are not inevitable. Death will continue to find a way until life realizes that it has lost its way. Life finds a way by purposefully picking up its foot and planting its big old boot in that stream of death, redirecting the flow or stopping it altogether. Life finds a way--not accidentally through good wishes or prayers--life finds a way by breaking from a hard seed, by releasing roots into earth, by moving courageously towards sun, by persevering through wind and cold, and by continuing to grow itself in impossible places.
May we all loose this life upon the world. May the memories of Daunte Wright and George Floyd guide and sustain us, and may we honor them as we put on our boots and get to work.
Kristin Gifford is a mother, writer, teacher and journeyer into the dismantling of white supremacy within herself and the places around her.