In response to Charlottesville

August 14th, 2017

My family and friends are sharing their sadness and frustration in response to the Charlottesville violence on social media. We prayed at church for the peace of that community. But posts and public prayers don’t seem to be enough.

The governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency, but the emergency extends beyond the bounds of that state. It is nationwide. The questions we all must ask ourselves is how do we respond and what do we teach our kids about our volatile and uncertain world?

First, we take action. And I believe the most sustainable action starts right where we are.

In 2015, my kids and I moved to an historically black neighborhood in urban Nashville. I wanted to be part of the revitalization of our city. My heart for this area of town is integration, not gentrification. There are black families, homeowners, and business-owners who have lived here for generations. We are surrounded by Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University. Each of these fine institutions has contributed to the success of thousands and thousands of students. I walk almost daily on Jefferson Street, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King used to speak when he came to town and where jazz and blues flourished. Minutes away is a community where black professionals have flourished for decades.  

I live here, a place where black friends of mine said they would never stay because it is too rough. “Be sure to buy a gun or at least get a big dog,” they instructed.

I refuse to own a gun, and my dog is the friendliest pup you’d ever want to meet. My safety plan is smiles and conversations. I wave and say “hello” to those I pass on the street. Many now smile and wave in return because they’ve become accustomed to seeing the redhead walk by. I also talk with my neighbors on my block. We look out for each other. 

I support the businesses in my community, putting money back into our local economy. The folks at the barbershop know my sons and me. My daughter and I make frequent trips to the Dollar General on the corner. And Slim & Husky’s has the best pizza in town.

I’m a minority in my neighborhood. I know what it feels like to be looked at with suspicion. “What are you doing here?” people ask without saying a word.

I smile, looking each one in the eye, acknowledging that all of us are created in the image of God.

My children and I have an ongoing conversation about our neighborhood. It hasn’t been their favorite place to live, but we talk about the history and significance of these streets. When presented with the choice of living in an all-white community instead, my bi-racial beauties say, “I don’t want to be the only brown kid.”

It is imperative that we do not respond in fear to racism. Instead, choose love…for perfect love casts out fear. We choose to love those who are different from us, whether that difference is skin color, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or political opinion. We must live with intention, choosing Respect, Fairness, Kindness, Cooperation — choosing to Love In A Big World — for every act of love is a prayer.

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