We drove through the intersection at 3rd street where the blockade of the bypass would happen later that evening. I took a deep breath blinking away the sun in my eyes trying to imagine what the street would look like full of honking cars and the flashing lights of police cars responding to the disturbance. Would it matter?
Parking in the old O’Malia’s lot the twins and I ran into the CVS for juice and markers. We were there early. It was still warm – for winter – but the shadow from the building began to creep forward toward the car making us shiver. We put on extra coats, mittens and hats. The twins started to draw and color on the neon posterboard, and as people arrived with food and fliers, Cara laid out blankets to make signs, and I watched as people mingled a little, eating pizza, reporters talked to folks, all our kids running around in between little groups and bikes.
(Photo credit Cristian Medina)
We marched and held hands. Walked with signs and shouted with the group. Laughed and parents talked about kids getting sick and the holidays. Anna bounding along next to me with her sign “#theycantbreathe” and I’m momentarily confused by the clashing images of cute and somber. At the intersection we stood and watched as cars and trucks filled up the lanes on either side. And then people standing silently in the street in front of the cars. So many different faces. White, black, brown, yellow. The littlest babies in carriers. Older folks. Hoodies and bandanas over faces. Strollers and bikes. Huge wooden signs were up blocking crosswalks. Three police cars drove up and I felt my hands start to get clammy as they approached us saying, “Obstruction of traffic is a civil offense. This is a warning. We will have to arrest you if you remain in the street.” I watched as one by one people peeled off and slowly passed off banners and signs and walked to the sidewalk. But everyone continued to stay close and chant, “No peace. No justice.”
Anna asked me, “Mommy is a protest like a parade?” I said, “No, it’s a revolution.”
Before we left to go home for dinner and baths, we stood with the group for 4.5 minutes in silence to remember Mike Brown and how he laid dead on the ground for 4.5 hours. The red and blue lights of police cars in my eyes and cars rushing by on the other side of the street – I wept a little and breathed out, “Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.”
Anna was on my back in the carrier. She had switched with Desmond who had been riding in it earlier. But, she had fallen asleep at some point and began to wake up softly crying over and over, “Mommy, mommy, mommy…” And I couldn’t help but think about the cries of these men and women – someone’s babies – and how they went unheard and were silenced by violence and death. I thought about the strangled noises of life leaving bodies that were brutally shot or killed with bare hands. I thought about mothers and fathers crumpling to the ground wailing for lost children. I thought about suicide bombers and school shootings and massacres and buildings falling.
And I thought about how we need a revolution.
A heaviness fell over the group as the darkness of the night deepened around us. More honking, more blinding lights, and then the crowds began to disperse a little. We got in our car and left.
“Mommy what’s a protest?”
“It’s when people get together because something isn’t right and we say there needs to be a change.”
At home I squeezed all three babies over and over. Smelled their hair and skin and grabbed their toes. And I felt … love and hope – I felt Emmanuel – God With Us – and remembered it echoed the feeling of being with people at vigils and protests and worship services. It felt like being squeezed by a presence and love that promises to not let go of us. The more I live and work I see how so much of what I do is because of them. For children and babies and people who are innocent and worthy and made in God’s image. All of it – writing, preaching, reading, ministering – though it feels like a billion side projects they are all connected to wanting this world to be better. This is more and more the core of my identity as a person. And as a parent. I want my children to know this – all children matter. All matter. Because who we are, what we do here – it matters.