Why I am going to Ferguson…

August 21, 2014

When the verdict came in for the George Zimmerman trial last summer (was it just last summer?) I became painfully aware of the way violence perpetrated against unarmed black teenagers taps into deep fear and centuries of pain. Trayvon’s death woke up memories of whip-scarred backs and people hung from trees by white men in white robes. My eyes opened and my heart broke.

Actually, I could write a very long list of other books, articles, trainings, and stories that opened my eyes and broke my heart. (Like this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/racist-preschool-suspensions_n_5627160.html and The New Jim Crow.)

Racism is a sickness that runs deep in our society, and I don’t believe any of us can truly be whole until and unless we admit that and find a way to heal it.

After Mike Browne was shot in Ferguson, the reports began streaming in about the police response. I watched video of tanks and tear gas and wounds from rubber bullets, horrified. I chose to pay attention, to keep my eyes open, and let my heart be broken again. It seemed the least I could do.

In the midst of the chaos, there have been moments of hope and optimism. I’m convinced this might be a turning point for us as a nation. There are ways forward that don’t involve killing more black teenagers. The Wall Street Journal (believe it or not) published this article on body cameras: http://online.wsj.com/articles/what-happens-when-police-officers-wear-body-cameras-1408320244. I’ve signed petitions asking for a demilitarization of the police force, as well as outside investigation for police homicides.

But when the police in Ferguson are claiming this is a “Race War” and when they are raiding churches (CHURCHES!) to confiscate Maalox, petitions aren’t enough. The call went out asking clergy to go to Ferguson over Labor Day weekend, and I am moved to answer that call.

Now, normally, when bodies are needed, I don’t consider my body a good candidate. My Lupus limits my energy, and I have a lot of people counting on me. But it shouldn’t just be black bodies on the line. I am hoping that my presence, my middle-aged, white body can somehow make a difference. I know a lot of people who would go if they could; I’ll carry their prayers and well-wishes with me. And I believe it will be powerful and transformative to bring stories of what’s happening in Ferguson back to my congregation.

My understanding of what it means to be human and on a spiritual path involves keeping mind and heart open, and then responding mindfully and with authenticity. I try to walk my path one step at a time, and I try to trust the ‘still small voice,’ even when I am afraid or unsure. The voice is telling me I need to go to Ferguson to stand with the people there who are insisting that black lives matter. Because I believe that black lives matter, too.


6 Responses to “Why I am going to Ferguson…”

  1. Pat Says:

    You definitely should go and all our hearts and prayers will go with you. Remember James Russell Lowell’s poem: “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side….” Even this atheist can say, God bless.

    Pat R

    Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2014 05:11:57 +0000 To: patty0727@hotmail.com

  2. irrevspeckay Says:

    Thank you for your witness and your going. So very important. Just a point: Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012 — 2.5 years ago. Blessings.

  3. You’re right, of course. I was thinking of when the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial came in…

  4. You say it well — this is an important thing to do. I appreciate very much the leadership role clergy are continuing to take. I also liked the links — well-chosen, informing me more about aspects of the situation that I have missed. Thank you. Nancy

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Jo Walter Says:

    Thank you Liz, for following the call of your conscience and taking a stand in Ferguson. I feel very proud to have one of our UU ministers make this a priority, especially knowing that it means real sacrifice and risk on your part. Thank you for representing us, and for representing me personally – I wish I could stand there with you.Stay safe. Sending love.

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