We woke up Saturday morning overcome with grief from the week’s violence in Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas. After checking in with one another, and trying to find out if any actions had been planned in Baltimore, we chose to host a vigil at McKeldin Square, just off the Inner Harbor. Street zazen: meditating for racial justice and an end to violence.
We sent out word to some friends, got our posters ready and began our public witness around 6:30 pm. Our signs read:
All lives will matter WHEN Black Lives Matter
Awaken from the illusion of separation
Nothing was ever healed with a gun
The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It’s either nonviolence or nonexistence. (MLK)
Peace between people of all colors and creeds
Tourists, families, groups of kids, O’s fans and attendees leaving Bronycon (billed as the world’s largest My Little Pony convention) passed by and, for the most part, offered their support in one form or another. Some people gave us thumbs up or nodded their heads. Others said, “Thank You.” A few approached us to express their affirmation in more heartfelt words and comment on Evie’s cuteness.
Not long into our vigil we heard chanting up Pratt Street. A march had formed. Michael, Auggie and I (Tucker) got ready to join. Just as we were about to step into the crowd one of the march’s leaders approached us. He took my sign (i.e., “Awaken from the illusion of separation”), read it, then faced me squarely, with tears in his eyes, and said, “You are my brother and I love you.” He gave me and Auggie a hug, took my free arm — I was holding Auggie with my other — and welcomed us into the march.
I have been re-visiting his act of love, welcome and solidarity since Saturday. It continues to teach me.
It reminds me that people with privilege — like myself, based on the color of my skin, my cultural capital, my material wealth, my education, my family’s resources and ties in community, to name just a few — must risk that privilege in the struggle to realize racial equality. What does risking mean? Perhaps it’s different for each person, given their social locations and present moment circumstances. But in that moment, during that march, it meant putting my body — as well as Auggie’s — in the street.
The march was peaceful. We walked. We chanted. The collective presence was emotional, fierce, focused and wholeheartedly invitational. The leaders called out to people on the sidewalks to join us. Some did. Some took pictures. Some walked away with their heads down. Others stood to face us and gesture their show of support.
The police remained calm and, at least while I was there, didn’t obstruct our right to assemble and protest peacefully.
Auggie was enthralled with the gathering and singing and rhythmic movement of our bodies marching down Pratt Street.
We will continue to hold a vigil, hopefully each week, to witness for racial justice and nonviolence. We welcome you to join us.