Monday night Lexi, our first apprentice at the Urban Mission Center, sent me a link on Facebook: Hey, would it be possible for us to go to this vigil tomorrow?
We drove north to Ferguson the next morning. It's a quiet ride. I remember commenting about how some people who've never been to Ferguson probably imagine it as a burned out, deserted place. But it's not. It reminds me of Hazel Park, a neighboring suburb of Detroit.
This isn't my first visit to Canfield Green Apartments, but today felt different. The sun was hot, beating down on the memorial of stuffed animals, candles, and flowers. Two little girls were giggling, hand in hand. A friendly pit bull nuzzling a group of children. Gospel music on the speakers. Break every chain, break every chain, break every chain. There was a certain love and hope in the air, maybe a quiet resolve. Almost like the acceptance that things are not as they should be, but we are working to make them right. It felt like reconciliation in process.
I'm not too sure how to articulate how my heart has changed since the death of Michael Brown. It feels heavy and hard. I often feel misunderstood by my fellow Jesus people. I'm okay with that.
Two years ago today, everything changed. Two years ago today, another black boy was shot before he had the chance to become a man. And two years ago today, the world exploded. And yet, a little under two years ago, the Urban Mission Center was opened. We recognize anniversaries because it’s important to remember the past and where we started from.
My perspective changed when Mike Brown was killed. I admit, I had never been forced to think about racism, I really only experienced it when I saw my African American friends go through. Although my family is interracial, I don’t remember a time in my life where I felt like we were excluded or treated differently because of it. That may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in a town where my mom’s family was well known and well loved, but who really knows. I believe that God was just shielding us from it, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. When Mike Brown was killed, I was in Tennessee on the last day of a college resident training program called WalkAbout. I was completely disconnected from the world and had no idea what had happened in St. Louis. But I remember sitting in my college dorm lounge and watching as Ferguson was torn apart by the rage and tension that had been built up and then released by the verdict that Darren Wilson would not be indicted. The Black Lives Matter movement came in full force then, and I have to say that it’s incredibly important that it did. See, with that non-indictment, the nation’s black people heard that their lives didn’t matter as much as that one officer’s. They had to come up with something, some way to show that they did matter. So they took to the streets and took over social media. No Justice. No Peace. I heard that cry and knew that I needed to take it up too.
Sadly, not a lot has really changed. An absurd number of black men have been killed since Mike Brown’s death. When Philando Castile was killed, I was shaken to the core again. It was the first time that I really felt scared for my dad. I text him the morning after just to tell him to be safe, because it seemed like there was no safe place for black men after that incident. But it only confirmed in me that I would have to do work to end that. I don’t know what my position looks like in this fight for equality, but I know that I need to be a part of it. No child should have to fear for her father’s life just because he’s black leaving the house. No one should have to live in fear. So I’m trying to come up alongside people who I can learn from, people that will push me towards the reconciling work that must be done. I hope that more of you will do the same. I don’t want anyone in my family, nor any of God’s people to live in fear anymore.