04 December 2014

I Can't Breathe

When I heard the Eric Garner decision yesterday, my feelings were beyond naming.

Outrage... disgust... horror... devastation...denial... fear...

 I spent the day in a haze, unable to concentrate. Were all the people going about their daily life around me unaware of the decision? Or -- worse -- did people just not care? The only thing I could think to do to resolve the growing turmoil within was to protest.

As I exited my car at MLK Blvd and Crenshaw that night, at first I felt awkward. I wondered if I had the right to claim this grief. When a woman shouted through a bullhorn "I am Michael Brown!" for us to repeat, at first I felt timid. But eventually, my voice joined the chant: "I am Michael Brown! I am Eric Garner! I am Ezell Ford! I am Kelly Thompson!" 

And I understood. To not claim their loss as my own would be to deny someone's humanity; to not identify directly with them would mean either they were not human, or I am not. 

Eventually the protest moved to the Walmart down the road. There I saw beautiful children, gripping their parents' hands tight, looking at us with questioning faces. The store was protected by a line of a dozen policemen, many of them black, whose thoughts I can't begin to imagine. One protester had a drum; his drumming kept our voices from flagging. With some of the protesters chanting "ABOLISH THE POLICE!", the tension palpable, it was all I could do not to samba - the dance that reminds me I'm alive - to pray with my feet.