Rayshard Brooks lay lifeless in a Wendy’s parking lot.
This parking lot is located five miles from where Kathryn Johnston was murdered, 18.9 miles from where Alexis Crawford’s body was found, and roughly 47 miles from where those imprisoned died of COVID-19. This parking lot is also located 224.2 miles from where Kendrick Johnson was found inside a rolled-up gym mat, and more than 250 miles from where Candace Towns was found between two abandoned houses.
Brooks was shot and then kicked in a parking lot I have entered many times. Things have not been the same on University Avenue, and I doubt anything will ever be the same again.
A few days after this incident, I was on my way home from work and I told myself I was too tired to go on University Avenue. As I approached the exit, I decided to drive past and take the back road home. As I moved closer to the parking lot, I noticed the presence of police officers decreased, and saw a Black man in the middle of the street waving a white T-shirt in the air. I rolled down my window to hear what he was saying. “You can’t come down this street. We will be out here every day. So you can either join us or turn around.” I immediately placed my fist in the air as high as I could, and parked my car.
I was back on University Avenue.
At that moment, I did not care about the police who were eventually going to come. The Black man who stood in the middle of the street hypnotized me. His energy, courage, and passion was like a magnet, and I was stuck. I was reminded of the words of James Baldwin who said, “Birth, struggle, and death are constant, and so is love.”
More and more people started to park their cars, and join us in the street.
As more people joined, the louder he yelled, the more I smiled. A warmth took over my body. The feeling one can get from a love expressed in the form of open resistance to an established evil government.
Many people are in search of this feeling. A feeling that goes beyond symbols and empty promises. Organizers like Tea Sierra and protestors alike are working toward a world of opportunities, beyond oppression. They are being led by our ancestors and are drenched in Ubuntu.
They shout, “I am because you are,” and express this in their actions and willingness to raise a white T-shirt in the air, and compel others to join the fight. They are imagining a world where Black life is valued, and they can feed their families. They refuse to see another Black person die, and another Black mother mourn her child.
There is no doubt in my mind the Black man who stopped traffic understands his freedom is tied up in mine. This is a form of beauty that can only be achieved when one strips themselves of patriarchal white normative thought, and begins to live into the definition of beauty posed by Patricia HiIl Collins as the state of becoming.
But what is this world truly becoming?
Kelly Brown Douglass, in Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, helps us here. We are witnessing a future where the violent enforcement of white privilege is no longer acceptable. We must see those who are willing to stop traffic for others. We must see the beautiful faces of those who refuse to let up. We must hear the words of the Black rock group Funkadelic: free your mind, your behind will follow.
In her 2015 book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of Movement , Angela Davis writes, “We cannot rely on the government to do only what mass movements can do.”
So, where do you situate yourself in this fight?
Are you 300 miles from where Black people are lynched and murdered or only 2 miles? Whether their blood cries out from Valdosta Ga., or the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, their cries cannot go unanswered.
We cannot fall into the centuries of empty promises, but only into physical and internal transformation, a place where only love can push us.
I say we need to be like our brother, courageous enough to stop traffic, and bold enough to tell the truth. This sounds like Jesus to me.
I wanted to ask this man who had the audacity to stop traffic his name, but I did not. I did not want to interrupt his encounter with the Holy Spirit. While I do not know his name, I will always remember his face. I remember the love that seemed to beat out of his chest as he raised his T-shirt and invited others to join the fight. I will always remember his love and the fact that if things do not change, he too could end up like Rayshard Brooks, and this is not an option.
God continues to breathe, and this is beautiful.