Fiercely UU is a blog series where Unitarian Universalist young adults tell stories about what our faith requires of us and how they follow that call. To be fiercely UU is to proclaim human worth and interdependence. In an individualist, greed-based, shame and fear fueled white supremacist patriarchy, we say no to isolation and oppression and yes to radical love and covenanted connection.
Cultivate Love, Resist Evilby Cir L'Bert Jr.
On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown, was killed by Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department within view of the home he shared with his mother. His unattended body laid in the street for eight hours before it was removed, like “he didn't belong to nobody” as one resident said.
Terrorized and exhausted by the ongoing police terror, the community slowly erupted in an explosion of beautiful resistance, radical unity, and fierce resolve to prove otherwise. “Mike Mike,” as they called him, showed us we could still stand up to them. His action challenged the last true dictatorship in America, that of the plainclothes policeman. By asserting his right to continue on his way home, he challenged the assumption that the State owns the space we occupy and our right to exist in that space.
His people followed his action by showing us we could still stand up for each other. By claiming the space as their own, and devaluing corporate infrastructure, their actions challenged the narrative that our lives have no value. In the ensuing weeks their reaction rippled through the black community. For some it was a replay, for others the first taste of unrepentant state violence, and for many it was what we'd been subconsciously waiting for our whole lives.
It may seem strange to hope for fire and ruin, yet those of us trapped at the bottom of the racial caste system were already burning. Raised in the smoke, we knew how to put the fire out, we just couldn't carry the water alone.
Our movements for black liberation had been extinguished through state aggression by 1974 and the shortsighted integration plan had gutted black political and industrial power. The drive towards individuality, contrasted with ghettoization, had destroyed our communities. Resistance was defined as criminality.
I was raised in a housing facility much like Mike's Canfield Apartments. Though “times were tough”, I had the blessings of good parents. Our worth and dignity was continually affirmed in the home, as was our history, our culture, our skin and hair.
As the Ferguson Uprising unfolded I stayed up nights monitoring the livestream, helping to spread word about the unrest, copying encouraging quotes from books in my library, and helping the protesters stay informed of police movements.
One night the violence reached a fever pitch and I came to a moment of clarity about my responsibility for self and others. Blessed with family support, mobility, and access to resources, I knew since I could show up, I should show up. As these little ones resisted, I saw that this was my family's struggle, and it would be my daughter's if I didn't make it mine.
Some say we remember how people make you feel more than what they say or do. Speaking to that, my experience of that time is a melting pot of images, sounds, and emotions...
The smiling faces of children eager to be tutored in the library as their schools were closed due to unrest. The smell of hot dogs grilled by women in the community for those called activists. The sound of a drummer boy marching with us to the Ferguson Police Department. It was shared resolve, it was active liberation. It was a feeling of love.
The sour, acrid smell of tear gas clinging to clothing and materials. The naked aggression of a police line. The sight of concrete dividers used to cordon a housing facility. Peace-officers with black face masks training high-powered rifles at your vital organs. It was untreated hatred and willful violence. It was a feeling of evil.
Our first principle, which recognizes the inherent value in all, is a direct answer to a system that devalues life. As people of principle it is our responsibility to cultivate love and resist evil. It is our responsibility to show up.
With rigorous honesty and self-examination we can effect change with seemingly simple efforts. Many times, just our friendship, our visible solidarity, and honesty can work wonders. We can use our privilege to open doors others cannot, press for change, and reach a wider audience than many of those at risk.
In doing this work we will find our faith challenged, and we will have opportunities to challenge our faith. Through this process of spiritual, mental, and emotional emancipation of self we may find a path to share that liberation with others.
In that sharing we may find that our common religion is life, cries for freedom our common prayers, and revolutionary love our common gospel. In doing that we may see that that moment of liberation in Ferguson, was our moment and has become our now, and ours together to complete.
Cir is an Akron, Ohio based writer and speaker working towards equality, justice, and black liberation. He's a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron where he chairs the Racial Justice Task Force. He also is a leader with Akron Initiative for Racial Equality (AIRE). Find more of his writings on Marooned in Akron and follow him on twitter (@cirjr) and instagram (/cirjr)