Last Friday was one of the darkest days for our country following the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa.
The day before, after the publication of the videos surrounding the deaths of Alton Stirling and Philando Castile, it seemed that Americans might begin to think and listen more about what black Americans too often face on the country’s streets.
Then came the horrible assassinations in Dallas of five police officers and the gunshot injuries to nine more along with two civilians.
Will we now go back into our corners of division in this country, unwilling to listen and understand and act to change our country.
I haven’t felt so numb since I was stunned as a 17 year old hearing that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. And why are the words Bobby Kennedy spoke on the night Dr. King was assassinated still moving but also a reminder again of how far we have not come:
“My favorite poet was Aeschylus, and he once wrote:
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
On the way to my office on Friday, I drove by the street shrine of candles in front of 68 Hancock St. where one morning last week a man was murdered during an argument. In 1972, at 90 Hancock St., I had a shotgun put to my head in a case of mistaken identity. But I’m still here now and this young man is gone.
From noon to 1 p.m., we have a conference call from our Dorchester office with our staff from around the state to pray and share how we are feeling.
Marc compared it to a wall with jagged glass on top of constructed to keep people out. Janine felt her soul was rubbed over that wall top. Angel was frustrated, said something has to change, and asked what does she say to her son. Dalida was afraid for her two boys and felt like she should pack up and leave but then was determined to stay. Margie said we have to do something. Ric said I don’t usually go to demonstrations but I will go to this Black Lives Matter action on Columbus Avenue. Adiel felt isolated in her grief. Stanley said he doesn’t feel anything because this happens over and over and he recalled when he was racially victimized. Cherish was angry and worried for her little black boy and for her black boy friend.
We read aloud from a challenging prayer called, “A Litany for Those Who Aren’t Ready for Healing.” It starts with, “Let us not rush to the language of healing before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.”
Then, at 8 p.m., I’m on another conference call with organizers from across the country. Our colleague, the Rev. Jennifer, is in Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling was murdered. She says there’s “fear, anger, finger pointing, a toxic environment like after Hurricane Katrina, who to trust, where to go...I hope in God but don’t think there will be justice. It’s a powder keg here that could blow up.” Rev. Slack says he’s “afraid to feel. All my life I’ve seen abuse and little done about it. ...I need a fresh dose of hope.”
Then Rev. Matthews reminds us of what St. Augustine said: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
Amen! We know the anger is there, but do we have the courage that hope needs? We must.”
I have to stop at our administrative office on Dorchester Avenue on my way home. My colleague Regina, who is a minister, too, reminds me as we stand on the street that the Bible says, “When there’s heaviness in your heart, the Lord says if my people humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land.”
Our land needs healing and if we humble ourselves, pray, be kind, and act, we might heal our land.
Lew Finfer is a Dorchester resident