I’m sick, tired and angry and sick, tired and angry about being sick, tired and angry.
So I release , ramble and write .... I'm in this space that I can't describe
So that's the title ... This Space
I remembered it happened during my first year of teaching.
I was all of twenty two years old ,teaching my kindergarten class about community and my lesson plan was perfect. We had field trips, class visits and art projects.
It was perfect........
We began each day by talking about the people in our community and having the children describe what they did. “Teacher, the mailman brings us the mail.” “The teacher shows us how to read.” "We buy food at the store."
It was perfect .........
Then I asked about the police officer .......
My four year old student jumped and said “Teacher, I know. They make you do this” and within seconds …this beautiful brown four year old got down on his knees, placed hands behind his head with his tiny fingers laced together.
It is one of those indelible images that you can’t erase ever .......
This wasn't scheduled in my perfectly planned lesson.
My heart was sick, tired and angry because the innocence of this beautiful four year old, who was just beginning his life, was already being chipped away.
For many of us in our communities, innocence is chipped, stripped and simply snatched from us.
I’m tired. I'm grieving. I'm angry. I'm heartbroken.
I'm heartbroken that out of all the emotions that I am experiencing, that shock is still not one of them ...
I told a friend that I have been channeling Fannie Lou Hamer’s words, wisdom and spirit all week. Everything that this Mississippi freedom fighter, shero, advocate and activist poured out fifty plus years ago in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement still speaks and applies to today. Nothing has to be edited, deleted, added, changed or adjusted …. Straight out the same.
When I watched the press conference with Alton Sterling’s son and his mother, to listen to yet another African American son weep with an anguish that is still ringing in my ears, haunts me and wakes me up in the middle of the night. Fannie Lou said:
It’s too much..
Tired of #HashtagNames
Weary of those who think that this racism is some kind of new monster, when for most of us it is the monster that has always been under our bed and in our closet … from the beginning.
Weary of those who think that acting or not responding a certain way will always protect you .... it doesn't.
Last week, I received a copy of a magazine where I was interviewed about a spiritual practice. I read it this weekend, having no idea that it was preparing me for what I would need the next week.
The title of the article was "Sheila Spencer and the Healing Power of Silence"
Seriously ……………… Silence in a moment like this?
Yet a few days later, I found myself exhausted and desperately needing this power and to be in this healing space. I had to retreat, detach myself from the noise and remove myself from social media, to focus and center. I am exhausted, overwhelmed, tired of videos being replayed over and over, African American bodies lying on grounds covered in blood, broken bodies and damaged justice systems. I am too tired to explain or teach about the pain.
This was a silence that I needed to restore and heal. It is how I recharge myself.
It was time to be still and pray, this time of silence was healing, and restoring. But I knew that after I had my moment of healing, self-care and prayer (I've included a prayer at the end of this piece) – Fannie Lou reminded me of my next step.
During my retreat, the absence of noise was a silence that heals.
But there is also the silence that kills.
Silence that is Healing strengthens me to fight the silence that is killing.
There is a difference.......
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words warned us:
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The only thing louder than the outrage, disappointment and heartbreak is the silence.
And it’s deafening……..
Removing myself from social media didn’t prevent or shield me from more heartache; it simply delayed it for a few hours. Barely twenty four hours later, another life was taken, and now in addition to Alton’s son’s anguishing cries, I hear the voice of the four year old girl, sitting in the back seat witnessing the murder of Philando Castile, innocence snatched away, the same age of my student who assumed the position. He did what he was told, and life was still taken. Stripping away another myth .....
Know the differences between the silences.
God, teach me when I need to retreat into the silence that heals,
The silence that removes me from the noise and distraction around me so that I can center myself
God teach me when I need to retreat into the silence that heals
The silence that stills my spirit restores my strength and catch my breath..
When I emerge from this silence that restores and heals, so that I can speak against the silence that kills.
The silence that kills when it simply refuses to speak
The silence that kills because it doesn’t want to offend or make others uncomfortable
The silence that that kills when it fails to notice or acknowledge what is happening right in front of us.
The silence that kills by trying to stop those who speak
The silence that kills by suppressing those who express their heartache, or stops those who speak out.
The silence that kills when we don't acknowledge our neighbor's pain.
The silence that kills by putting on a false facade that everything is alright ..... because it's not
Teach me to be restored and strengthened in the silence that heals, so that I can be empowered to fight against the silence that kills.
Because in the end, Fannie Lou reminds us
Love all of you and especially grateful to the spirit of the Freedom Fighter Fannie Lou Hamer.
Channeling the spirit of the Ultimate Freedom Fighter – Jesus Christ, who modeled love along with justice, can't have one without the other.
"Jesus’ teachings on love and forgiveness cannot be read independently of his narrative of justice and the correction of the wrongs against those oppressed." Ken Pettigrew
And in the midst of our grieving and pain, let’s look out for each other. Take care; retreat away when you need it ….. seriously. I've been sustained by safe spaces to vent, praying, crying and everything else. Give yourself time to grieve, talk it out, seek counsel, and check in on each other.
Surround yourself with that sacred collective of those who will stand with you, don’t be consumed with who is or isn’t there… be convinced and do it. Place yourself in a sacred community where you look out for each other, encourage and extend, support and stretch, confront and comfort.
Heartbroken but not losing heart
Tired, but not giving up
But at this moment I am in this space ......
Self care is not a luxury, self care is self preservation. My friend shared an article that blessed me, the writer's experience mirrored my own and I took many of the self care tips that she shared. When you have time, check it out.
Taken from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people so that you may wish and work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And after you have taken the action of prayer, do the action that God has called you to do.