Change is Gonna Come

Tulsa OK police dashcam video of Terrence Crutcher, moments before his death at the hands of law enforcement.
Tulsa OK police dashcam video of Terrence Crutcher, moments before his death at the hands of law enforcement.

Last night, another innocent American, Keith Lamont Scott, of Charlotte, N.C., was quietly sitting in his car, reading. He was tased and then shot by police officers. He was disabled, black, and the father of four. When I read the story on my Facebook feed, I thought how, earlier that day, I arrived at an appointment and sat in the car for a few minutes, reading an article on my phone. And yet, I was able to return home safely at the end of my work day.

Just days earlier, another innocent American, Terrence Crutcher, was tased and then shot by a police officer in Tulsa, OK. He was having car trouble, and was inspecting the situation when police arrived. Any one of us in similar circumstances might have had the expectation that the police had arrived to help. He was black, and was shot when his hands were raised above his head in surrender. He made the mistake of reaching into his car, probably to get his license and registration required at all traffic stops. If I were stopped, I feel confident that I could reach for my documents in my glove box, and live to tell about it. As a 61-year-old, white, female, cisgender, grandmother, I have a privileged profile and am unlikely to be perceived as a threat to anyone.

Philando Castile in St. Paul, MN, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, were also black, unarmed, and killed by police earlier this summer. We know other names, thrust unwillingly into public consciousness: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland. There are many other names we don’t know. At least 138 black people have been killed by police in 2016.  A study by the Guardian showed that young black men are nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police. NINE TIMES MORE LIKELY. The same study recorded 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers in 2015 alone.

We are all aware that the suffering of black people is not new. My own memories and awareness stretch back to the 1960’s, growing up white and privileged in an affluent and largely segregated Chicago suburb. There was exactly one black student in my high school graduating class of 860-something, and perhaps three in my entire school. Oh, and one Japanese guy. My parents were Democrats, like most people in Chicago; liberal, socially-conscious, and yet worried that Bobby Kennedy was “too progressive.” The notorious and crime-ridden Cabrini Green housing project was a mere 25 miles from my comfortable home, but it might as well have been light years. I grew up feeling proud that I was not racist, because my Dad had hired a black woman to be his executive secretary – the first in that major corporation. At the same time, I was completely unaware of systemic racism, and that I was its beneficiary in virtually every aspect of my young life.  Of course, the suffering of black people did not begin suddenly with my awareness of it. Black people have been systematically oppressed since their involuntary arrival in this country, as slaves, over 300 years ago, and it continues today in multiple aspects of our society.

While I have worked for equality have have supported various social justice causes behind-the-scenes for many years, I have not been as vocal as I could have been, or possibly should have been. I will no longer be silent. Despite the soul-crushing despair and disgust and heartbreak I feel over these most recent killings, I also feel strangely encouraged. I’ll tell you why.

I am reminded of the cumulative effect of news reporting during the Vietnam War. It was the first war that people watched on television. While the reporting began in an upbeat manner, I remember the casualty reports on the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC. The bodies, the bombings. The villages, the civilians, the children. For years. Although it took far too long, the tide of public opinion began to turn. And once it had turned, there was no turning back.

Today, and almost every day, we are served up images of the violent killings of unarmed black people, captured on amateur video and police dashcams. Raw and wrenching video, unedited, horrifying. Day after day, on television and on your computer or mobile device, as you drink your coffee, eat your meals, take your breaks, you see something that happened. There will be more, you know there will. Even the most reticent citizen must employ basic pattern-recognition skills at some point to come to the realization that SOMETHING IS WRONG.

So while my friends of color ache and carry on bravely every day despite their terror, I listen. Their lived experience is real, and now documented for all the world to see. I despair that these killings will not end soon enough, but at the same time, I have faith. I have faith that, albeit slowly, people are waking up to what is going on around them. I have faith that we can and will do better. I have faith that social media will accelerate the process, with daily, real-time reportage, relentlessly streaming. I have faith that “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.” I have faith that people of color will tell their stories, and that gradually, people will listen. I have faith that people of privilege will use their voices and their influence, speak out and step up, call out and sit in. When you see something, say something. Educate yourself on how to be an ally. Speak up when it’s hard, when you are with your friends who look like you. Whatever it takes, we must do, and do now.

Change is gonna come. Be the change.



All About That “Base”

Creative Commons License Image via

My worshiping community, the Live Oak Friends Meeting, has a new floor. And it’s a big deal.

The old floor was irreparably damaged approximately eighteen months ago, by a leak in the pipe leading to the hot water heater. It was a beautiful hardwood floor, and replacing it was no simple matter. The Meeting House contains a Skyspace by contemporary luminary (and illuminary) artist James Turrell. The replacement materials had to be approved by the artist, suppliers flaked, and the continuing discernment of the Meeting ground on. “The floor” has been a saga with a fair amount of drama, sometimes under the surface, sometimes on display.

During those eighteen months, the temporary solution was a large piece of industrial grade carpet, which covered the entire floor and made it possible for the Meeting to continue to use the space. While I had been to a concert there over five years ago, with the original floor, I had only experienced that utilitarian carpeting in the ten months that I have attended.

Last week, the doors opened, the early Meeting Friends were departing, and Adult First Day School was about to move into the space. My eyes opened wide, and I gasped. The wood floor had been installed! Simple but beautiful folding chairs, rather than our benches, were arranged in two facing semicircles. IT. WAS. GORGEOUS.

The floor had not been sanded yet, or finished, but it was there. You could smell the wood, just plain wood. Stepping into the room and onto the floor just FELT different. Solid, not squishy. The sound traveled and rang, rather than dropping and muffling, soaked up by the carpet. Unvarnished Truth.

As I sat, with my feet on the floor, I could feel my bones. I could feel my feet resting, leaning, if you will, into the floor, and the floor supporting my whole skeleton. The floor was firm, unyielding, the grounding truth, reliable in its presence, someplace where you could take a firm and steady stand.

As a movement educator, I appreciate the value of a good floor, and rarely take it for granted. Your action of standing, your weight pressing into the floor allows the floor to press into the soles of your feet — that’s how gravity works! Your skeleton springs, effortlessly, into the upright stance that distinguishes humanity from other species that have evolved in this planetary environment. To feel the ground clearly is to be able to move with power and skill, in a fully embodied expression of human-ness. .

Others must have felt it, too. Like the return of an old friend, people were smiling, warm, open. Emotions were vivid, vocal ministries flowed, Friends lingered in the space afterwards. As I paused to appreciate the shift into newfound stability, a thought came to me: it really is “All About That Base.” The earworm was unleashed (you’re welcome), an irreverent, playful, gentle gleam shone from my eyes, as I turned to greet and embrace my Friends.

Today’s Quote: Lord Byron

“Her great merit is finding out mine – there is nothing so amiable as discernment.”  — Lord Byron via

Cartoon chat bubbles
Public Domain image by

Ah, Lord Byron. Seductive, self-serving, impulsive, yet self-aware and capable of inspiring great good. The quote above has just the right amount of irony and humor. We tend to like people who also like us. Aren’t THEY brilliant?

As I searched for images for this post, most of them  related to discernment are clearly related to decision-making. This road, not that one. People obviously in the midst of making weighty and correct judgments. What struck me about Lord Byron’s observation was deeper and more nuanced. It was that “She” could see his merits – his good qualities, the very best of the essential “Him,” imperfect and, well, Byronic, as he was.

Quakers might say that She was able to perceive “that of God” in Byron. This is beyond giving people the benefit of the doubt, or looking for the good in everything and everyone, or other such platitudes, even though those ideas are pretty good. Perceiving “that of God in everyone” requires not that we pick them apart, keeping that which is of God and discarding the rest. Instead, we accept the whole glorious, amazing mess of that person, and then focus on, speak to, relate with, that person as if God Him/Her/Self – The and Their Inner Light –  were actually present within. Because it IS.

In a complex or controversial conversation, discernment requires listening through the emotions, the wanderings off point, and the personalities to find the needle of truth in a proverbial haystack of clutter. Assume that somewhere, if you really listen and look, that a hidden treasure is in there. Who would stop looking for a treasure that they knew was right in front of them? And yet, we do. All the time.

Lord Byron was clearly deLIGHTed to be perceived in such a way. It lit him up. When someone discerns my Light, I am drawn to them, and more easily discern the Light within them. Discernment in this way results in harmony, in love, in patience, and in peace.

When have you perceived someone’s Inner Light? Did it change the quality of your interaction? When do you recall a feeling that someone perceived your Inner Light? What effect did that have upon you? Please leave a comment.


The Christmas Elephants (in the room)

Image via iStockphoto
Image via iStockphoto

I’m deeply moved by this blog post from Krista Tippett, the host of the radio program “On Being.” It is full of resonance and truth-telling.
Why I Don’t Do Christmas

Reflections on what I call “the Christmas Elephants” of commercialism, compulsive busyness, excess, and comfortable sentimentalism are always prickly. She has helped me to reflect further on the larger meanings of the coming of Light into the world, and how I might bring more light to the New Year.

How about you?