Breakfast stories, protesters & a picnic in the park

by susan on May 26, 2016

red_this_is_the_part_thmbAfter almost 5 days of processing a tragic event that happened in our neighborhood, in classic introvert-style, I think I have finally assembled a response.

First, a confession. I remember being warned about Springfield before I chose to start a new faith community here. I was warned about a long line of “do-gooder” pastors who had come in, set up shop (often in the form of food or clothing ministry) only to move on a few years or months later. They came to save the ‘hood’.

I swore that would not be me. After all, I knew better. I had read Toxic Charity, witnessed the ill effects of chronic dependency & learned by experience the power of being “with” vs. doing “for”. I would collaborate, listen & learn from all the good that was already happening here.

I have done that to a degree, but I must confess: I still revert to old ways of thinking. I still want to be on the giving end, the telling end, the fixing end of things. I am much more comfortable there. There is a part of me that still thinks my white middle class self can bring something desperately needed here.

How misguided I can be.

As I shared breakfast with two friends on Tuesday, I listened as they shared stories of what it’s like to have dark skin. They told me about the times they had been accused, afraid and had to alter their behavior to avoid any possible ill consequences. I had nothing to offer in return, except space to share, a listening ear & a willingness to see & accept their truth.

Their stories were shared in a conversation about the shooting that happened in our neighborhood street on Sunday night. One life was lost & others changed forever. Within minutes of the news, the shooting and death of Vernell Bing, Jr. initiated all kinds of stories, debates & emotions around race, police force & who’s to blame. Personally, I believe it exposed a deeply rooted pain & grief that is always just below the surface of our racially diverse neighborhood – waiting for an opportunity to erupt – wanting to be seen & heard.

A couple of days ago, the protests began. Some called them “protests.”. Others, “vigils” or “marches”. I haven’t made one yet (although I plan to go tonight), but I’ve listened to the alarmed responses of neighbors on social media. They’ve been concerned about a violent outbreak. They are not on my corner, but all I can think is our neighbors just want to be seen & heard. Sadly, those with other, more politically charged motives can easily hijack the microphone.

community picnicIn a couple of days, The Well will be having another picnic in Liberty Park, right around the corner where an officer’s chase ended in a crash & the subsequent shooting of an unarmed young Black man. The park is part of our community where raw emotion, division & despair are in the air. For a brief second, I wondered if we should re-schedule. I believe, however, that there’s no better time to invite people to come together.

No, we are not there to “take back the park” – it’s absurd to think about taking back something that never belonged to us. Instead, we are there to listen, to learn, to share food & friendship. We are there to create space (beyond social media) to see one another, maybe even to acknowledge the pain that is present in us all.

I guess you could call this our picnic protest.

love protestJoin us in saying NO:
to fear,
to division &
to us vs. them.

And, YES
to moving forward,
to sharing,
to belonging,
to listening &
to being together in our celebrations & our sorrow.

It seems like a very Jesus-like thing to do. We’d love for you to stop by.

Peace & love,

Susan

[for those looking for space to express their sorrow or concern, a prayer wall will be available.]

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