A Vigil for Michael Brown…And All The Other Young, Black People Whose Lives Were Wrongfully Taken

15 Aug


Michael Brown Vigil

Providence, RI Vigil For Michael Brown

I never considered myself political, and I’m not sure I do now–I don’t really understand how politics work, and I haven’t spent time going to political rallies or protesting (except for in the early 90’s I went to my first and only one–to protect the Roe vs. Wade law in Washington D.C.).  I haven’t been a part of organizing against anything,  and don’t even venture into political discussions.  I tell myself, if anything, I’m a humanist, which I’m not sure I even know what people would say is the definition of that is.  My definition is  that I care about all human beings and their right to live a respected, dignified life, with equality and fairness for all people.

Yet, last night I found myself at my first vigil.  It was a vigil to honor the National Moment of Silence for Michael Brown, the black teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, who was killed by a white police officer this week.  Michael was unarmed, and just walking on his way home with a friend of his.  The vigil was also to remember the many other black youth shot and killed without reason–Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Ezell Ford, Jordan Davis…and the list goes on.

The local vigil was organized by Steve Roberts, a young black man, who led us in the moment of silence, and afterward spoke about his own experiences with being racially profiled for being black, and “looking like he doesn’t belong” in certain spaces.  Steve called for a challenge to the system that allows this to happen, and then handed the bull horn over to anyone who wanted to speak.  A handful of others followed–many young women of color–Black, Asian, Latina, several black men, and two white women.

The white women came up to the bull horn right after Steve finished–the first spoke about a negative experience her black son had with law enforcement.  She told of how she went to Internal Affairs and that action was taken with the offending officers, and urged others in the crowd to do the same, assuring them they would be helped.  The next women spoke about a police brutality incident with her white son and as she went on, I kept saying to myself, “please white people, don’t take over this space…don’t take over this space.”

The more I learn about white privilege, and the more I hear about and read about matters of race from many black people’s perspective, the more I am conscious of being in a space where black people and black voices should be leading the discussion, and that as a white person, I can be an ally, and support, and stand up for the wrongs of racism, and have my opinions, but that I and others, shouldn’t try to be in charge, shouldn’t tell black people what we think they should do, shouldn’t take up the space, like I was starting to feel might happen last night.

Yet, the women said their piece, and the mixed crowd of over 150 people–black, brown, white, young, and old, respectfully listened, even clapped, and then the bullhorn was turned over to mostly young women who spoke of actions needed to put an end to the violence against young black men.  One black woman welcomed people of all races to work together on fighting the systemic racism that allows for these deaths to occur so often without the police being punished for their crimes. Another strong, young woman, said it needed to be people of color to lead the call to action.  Speaking to the white woman who encouraged the crowd to speak up and get help, a young, black woman said that it’s not the same when black people go to places like Internal Affairs to get support for wrongdoings against them–that they won’t get the same treatment that white people get–hence the need for this vigil, and call to change the system of violence and oppression.

I had my daughter Darla with me, and as I think of the vigil’s beginnings, I felt proud of her for being there, and to link arms with her on my left, and a young, black boy on my right.  As we stood at dusk on the grassy downtown lawn across from the State House for our moment of silence, I glanced around the circle at the faces in the crowd.  At the signs honoring Michael Brown held by young women of color in Howard University sweatshirts, of elder white men and women I imagined had been attending peace marches for decades, of the young woman with the beautiful waist-length twisted locks, and brass earrings the shape of the continent of Africa dangling to her shoulders.

My eyes fixed on a young, black man across from me.  While his arms looped through his neighbors on either side of him, he was not holding on to them.  Instead, he held his hands straight up in the air, palms facing out.  I had to do a double-take before it hit me.  This young man was standing in the “Don’t Shoot” position.

We all can only hope and pray, and more than that, be a part of the change that needs to take place, so that this young man never has to hold his arms up in this way in order to save his life.




One Response to “A Vigil for Michael Brown…And All The Other Young, Black People Whose Lives Were Wrongfully Taken”

  1. Sherry Gordon August 15, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Hi, there, Wendy Jane! Wow, what a wonderfully loving, caring, and sensitive writing in which you have composed, as well as your other insightful blog post articles! You and your blog post article in this great writing are right on, my white friend and sister! I so love, cherish, and appreciate your dearest love, caring, and sensitivity for us as black people, and how you are a great ally and in solidarity with us my friend and sister! I love that you went to this marvelous silent vigil, Wendy Jane! I, too, am so heartbroken over the death of our dear Michael Brown and how poorly it had been handled, and that yet again another black teenager and black person of any age has yet again been killed in circumstances that cannot help to look questionable. I know that we still have yet to see all sides of the matter and for more to be disclosed but it sure doesn’t look good in how our Michael Brown’s death and the lack of investigation has been handled until just yesterday with the new black/African-American gentleman who grew up in Ferguson, Missouri being put in charge. I think this new person will be an agent of positive change in the investigation-this change will be a good thing.

    My special and precious white friend and sister, Wendy Jane, you are an inspirational, spectacular, and empowering humanist! You and your powerful blog post website so uplifts me and inspires me in my day, and make me feel so brighter in my perspectives in hope for our common, precious, and beloved humankind in our society. I, too, am so, so very proud of Darla! I am so thrilled that she went with you to the silent vigil! I, too, am praying for our country, society, and the world. I pray and dearly hope that these kind of things will cease or at least decrease in some significant measure, so that all of us together in our common beloved humanity and community can thrive in a world where there is no or at least less sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism and homophobia, genderism and transphobia, and racism. Wendy Jane, your dream is my dream, too! I pray so, so often and daily for a healing of our society and our society’s people. I will never give up on our society or on people. I will always have faith in people in general, and in white people that they can find healing and heal and recover from any racism in which they have and learn to process and work through their white privilege! I will never, ever give up on white people and their deep inner potential for good! I will always have faith in and believe in the inherent goodness of white people inside! I, too, like you am a humanist, and I love all people, Wendy Jane! You not only love us and cherish us dearly as black people, and black music, entertainment, education, and culture in general, but you love all people-all of our sisters and brothers! You love and care for all people on our Earth-you are a deeply caring soul and spirit, Wendy Jane, and a wonderful person I am so, so very honored to know!

    Wendy Jane, I thank-you for the gift and the blessing which you are to me and to others as well! I thank-you also for this amazing and lovingly caring and sensitive blog post article you have so graciously shared with all of us! This writing, and other great writings of yours on point shows your dearest love for us as black people, but also your dear heart and love for all of humanity as the brilliant and magnificent humanist who you are, my white sisterfriend, Wendy Jane!

    You please have a very nice, special, and a very blessed Friday, my special and precious white sisterfriend who you are as an ally and in solidarity, Wendy Jane! I am eagerly anticipating more of your spectacular writings, and I am going to read more of your Spirit-filled and soulful archives, too!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely Always,

    Your lesbian black friend and sister, Sherry Gordon

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