What made me go? Why did I take a one-year-old to a protest? Do you even call it a protest — what’s the definition of a protest? What are my feelings on the Black Lives Matter movement? How about racism? I mean…where do I start? Do I dive into all that? How much do I share? How much do I open up and expose myself and my beliefs to the (harsh) criticism of you (sorry, it can be true), the reader.
I don’t have my beliefs totally baked out. I have SO much to learn (about a lot of things, but ESPECIALLY about race relations in America). I have hidden in my little cave away from social media for quite some time now. Some may see me being a coward hiding from other’s opinions, other’s might commend me on staying away from the global conversation. Either way, what I have gained from “being away”, has been an opportunity to wrestle with my personal beliefs through journaling and in small scale conversations.
If you have something to say or ask, I am an open book, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee via the Starbucks app and we’ll have a digital, social distancing honoring, face to face convo. I promise to keep my boxing gloves off and my shield down. Only possible because of the exhaustive amounts of personal development work (thank you hours and hours of therapy!) I’ve been doing in COVID-land to learn how to curb my reactions and manage my emotions. To RESPOND instead of react. This is the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, to date. Read more about why I’d even do this work here. Jesus had the whole “tame the reaction to give a response” thing down perfectly. It’s going to be a lifetime for me and I’ll still die trying.
Phew. Okay. With all that out of the way…wait…why do I even have to say all that? Because THIS IS HARD.
It’s hard because people I love, who I trust and respect, who love Jesus and seek Him radically, share their stories and differing opinions with me, they have different fears and will have differing reactions to my involvement today. I am grateful, oh so grateful, that I have people with all kinds of differences around me who are wrestling with their own beliefs because it has refined me.
This refinement oftentimes looks like me fighting a grizzly bear. It’s messy, it’s painful, it’s humbling and the bear has (almost) won at times. Make no mistake “the bear” is no one other than myself. What does Virginia believe — behind closed doors, punching gloves off, lights faded, no stage or soap box — what do I believe and am I okay with those beliefs or do I need to change some?
Okay, okay, enough already. Let’s get down to the march.
First, let’s start with an adorable baby.
When that cute baby was in my belly, Lukas and I hiked to the top of Stone Mountain with an organization called OneRace Movement. It was one of the most moving experiences in my faith journey for a myriad of reasons — we can talk about those when we have coffee.
When Lukas told me OneRace was marching on Atlanta I was in, sign me up, I wanted to join.
Against all odds (a one-year-old with a very specific schedule being the biggest hurdle to jump) logistics fell into place perfectly and I participated in my first acknowledged Juneteenth celebration to honor my black brothers and sisters.
What I can’t capture on camera is the emotions I felt. I’ll try to do so with my words.
The event was heavily attended and by the time Tabby and I arrived with our friends from church, we weren’t given access since they were at max capacity. Immediately discouraged, we turned to walk in the direction we were told to travel. Faced with a tide of people going the OTHER direction, we turned around.
I experienced feelings of unsettledness and insecurity — where’s everyone going? What’s the plan? Are we safe? I’m in over my head here.
We made our way with the crowd, everyone wearing masks, trying to social distance as much as possible and landed at the corner of Centennial Park. Apparently that was exactly where the march was going to start…in 5 minutes. We suddenly went from the folks left out of the party to the ones leading the charge.
After wiggling to the edge of the crowd with Tabby’s stroller, folks, a lot of folks, fell in behind us. There were several with mega-phones directing us as we went. Several handing out signs to those that didn’t have them. I made the split section decision to pull Tabby out of the stroller and into her carrier so I could have her close.
Let’s be real…so I could run if I had to.
The energy was positive, the vibe pure but this was my first rodeo as a protestor and I had zero idea what to expect. In the forefront of my mind was, not three weeks before, being on my knees in my living room in tears, pleading to God to rescue my city after protests turned to riots and our city was in flames.
So yeah, Tabby was close. Super close. And my momma bear radar was on HIGH alert. Can you spot Tabby and I in the screen shot from the highlight video below?
Then we started walking.
The entire crowd moving together. Stopping traffic. Walking. Calmly. Super chill, like a slow moving stream in a peaceful meadow.
The chanting started.
“No justice, no peace.”
I thought to myself, do I chant? do I yell? I’m surrounded by people that seem to have done this more then once, I’m new to this show, have I earned enough stripes to be a part of this fight? Have I done enough research to even know what I believe?
Then the chanting became “No Jesus, no peace.”
Okay, YES. I can get behind that one!!
NO JESUS, NO PEACE! NO JESUS, NO PEACE!!!!
Now that I’m typing was it “no Jesus, no peace” or “know Jesus, know peace”. Both work, and I’m a fan.
Then the crowd switched to “black lives matter”.
Phew, okay, this one is pretty politically charged, do I yell it out? A few weeks ago I had a convo with a really smart individual who’s opinion I trust and who loves Jesus a whole lot share their adamant opposition to the official Black Lives Matter organization. This challenged me, made me question some stuff. I haven’t had time to form an educated opinion yet. I haven’t done enough research. Can I chant “Black Lives Matter” with all that unpolished opinion in my gut?
Then I remembered a text I’d received earlier that day. A longtime black sister shared with me her emotions after taking her daughters to a recent “families against racism” protest.
As I looked around, into the faces of those marching next to me, putting more faces to the words my dear friend shared from her own pain, my heart broke. I didn’t give a crap I hadn’t had time to do the research or that my opinion wasn’t fully baked on every issue. My own pain, my own grief, my own shame and guilt and every other emotion was put to the side. I didn’t care about the politics or the optics or the theology or whatever other label I wanted to give the wrestling in my heart —
BLACK PEOPLE MATTER. Full stop.
I could chant that at the top of my lungs, with tears in my eyes, without question — BLACK LIVES MATTER.
***Insert a moment of silence as I sit with the emotions, and allow myself to feel all the feelings***
Back to the march…do you know how hard it is to walk and chant???? I was carrying an extra 25lbs with Tabs strapped to my chest but even if her little adorable self wasn’t there, it’s HARD WORK. Atlanta sits on some serous hills and there’s a solid one from Centennial Park to the capital. And walking and chanting is no joke.
Around the time I started thinking about how exhausting this chanting and walking stuff was, I thought of all the people who had done this before me. All the men and women who have marched and protested because they believed in something.
An author I admire said, “There is no such thing as “I am a voice for the voiceless”…people actually have voices! Whole voices! The question is, who has the microphone?”
There are SO MANY VOICES who have been screaming and yelling and whispering about racial injustice in America for a looooong time.
I want to be a microphone holder. I want to position myself alongside my black sisters (okay, also the black brothers because my sisters are married to them and mother them but you guys know I love my ladies!) and hold their microphone.
The overarching theme I hear from the black community I’m surrounded by is “are you going to forget?”
I don’t want to forget.
I write this blog post so I don’t forget. I am arming myself with public accountability to help me not forget.
I stood on top of Stone Mountain August of 2018 and then I forgot. We moved our family into a dominantly black neighborhood and then I forgot. If I’m not actively engaging with this dialogue, this learning, this work, I will forget…again.
The verse I read in my Bible at the OneRace event on Stone Mountain is the one I cling to today. I ask the Lord I love to help me not forget. I look to Jesus as the author and perfecter of my faith. I thank Him for His sacrifice and His promise that I will not grow weary or fainthearted.
This stuff is too important to forget — BLACK LIVES MATTER.