It was dusk on a spring evening in 1967 in Detroit Michigan. Our then five-year-old daughter Corinne, who’d been playing with a neighbor girl in the front yard raced around to the back of our house shouting, “Mommy, Daddy, we have to stay inside our houses. There’s a curfew. The policeman says.”
Her father and I were in the screened in back porch of our fixer-upper house, white paint dripping from our brushes as we were finishing painting the ceiling –totally out of touch with what was happening in our neighborhood. By morning the commercial strip of shops several blocks away on Livernois Ave had been looted and burned to the ground. A day or so later as we huddled around the television screen watching images of armored tanks rolling up Woodward Ave, we understood that the nature of our neighborhood and our city had been changed for generations to come.
Then as now, there were tremendous inequities in our country, and many injustices that needed to be named and righted. It had been only four years since Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s March on Washington. We had responded to his wish for his children to “be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin,” by moving into an integrated neighborhood where our children could grow up alongside children of different races and religions. Our wish was that through familiarity and friendship, our children and children like Dr. King’s could be in solidarity with one another as human beings together.
So here we are again, our television screens filled with images of protesters attempting to make their case while store fronts are being looted, property burning, and neighborhoods decimated by undisciplined crowds gone wild. Like the riots and unrest in 1967, this present upheaval was initiated by police misconduct. And like other protests on behalf of social justice since then, the case of these protestors and activists is being hijacked by people whose goals are to bring the system down, not right it’s wrongs.
This time, after months of pent up energy from sheltering in place during a pandemic, and enduring lost jobs and livelihoods, our citizenry have watched and re-played yet another incident of a white police officer, unresponsive to the pleas of his black male victim, and murdering him in full view of the whole world. Should we be surprised that everyone is way past their last nerve, grieving for our country, our democracy, and for the future world we hoped to leave our children? It’s clear that protesters, in order to exercise their constitutional rights and make their case to the American public, are in need of protection from the police, the very institution whose members are being accused of the crime. There have been images of individual police taking to their knees, responding to the kindnesses of individual protesters, and walking alongside them. But extremists and anarchists are taking advantage of the palatable pain and suffering that’s spilling out onto the streets of cities and towns worldwide.
In the quiet dawn of a new day, sane people understand that burning cars and looting small businesses, destroying neighborhoods and congregating to spread the virus further, will not bring about the changes we desire, nor the justice victims deserve. As I stand in respectful mourning for those impacted by these injustices and pray for the healing of our nation, I hear the strains of an old civil rights freedom song.“ The song, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” was sung in the 60s by protesters, white and black, marching to assist black citizens in securing their voting rights in southern states. Recorded by everyone from Sweet Honey in the Rock to Bruce Springsteen, it reminds us all that it takes passionate dedication, relentless determination, and immense discipline to stay the course and hold on till justice is won. As supporters and allies there’s plenty we can do from the comfort of our own homes. Here’s the continually updated version of 75 things you can do to assist our country on its journey to achieving racial justice.
Offerings and Events
InterPlay On-Line – Friday mornings at 10:30 am
Thursday, June 11th at 4pm EST/3pm CST/2pm MST/1pm PST
Love to have you join us. Here’s the link to register
ReImagine Life, Love & Loss Festival
Sunday, June 7th 4pm EST/3pm CST/2pm MST/1pm PST
Tuesday, June 9th at 11:30am EST/10:30am CST/9:30am MST/8:30am PST
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If you’d like a printable poster of all the items go to my website and download a copy https://sheilakcollins.com/