3 Sep

Alison and Adam

I have spent nearly a year now staring back at my own mortality (I’m 41 years old).  Sometimes my arms are crossed; other times admitted indifference, my shoulders shrug; still other times, resignation. At least I have had extended time to sit with this.

In January I was advised this is benign; with rest and recuperation, the body will stop twitching and jerking.  This came after a 3 year stint with what many would call a faith based human rights organization.  We’d go to ‘conflict’ areas, unarmed, assisting communities who are pushing back against state occupation, resource extraction, defending their way of life by way of nonviolent methods.  We did so by bearing witness and documenting the various happenings.  I worked primarily with indigenous communities.

So during that period, at times, not many, I found myself quickly staring back at my own mortality, wondering if the guns pointed in my general direction (no, not directly at me), or the circling, angry, screaming crowd, will be my last glimpses of this realm.

But that’s a path I chose.  And I continue to have a stare down with my own mortality as the medical journey continues in light of recent possible complications that emerged. But I remain committed to social justice, and attempt to help raise awareness regarding the Black Lives Matter movement since returning to the United States.  I do so primarily through my writings, but in my faith circles too.  Because for me, as a Christian, by reading all of scripture, we are repeatedly led and called to the same place: the margins, to the ‘least of these.’  And while there, by assisting justice and righteousness with its holy kiss of peace, we are saved.

Regardless of that brief background and context regarding me (since I do not know whose eyes will ultimately read this once this gets to the public sphere) I was absolutely horrified by what greeted me when I logged onto Twitter that fateful morning.  Mortality flashed before our eyes in a very cruel, diabolical way.


#Alison Parker.

#Adam Ward.

More hashtags.

But wait, white faces?  Oh dear.

The various- white- spiritual progressive sites and the -white- spiritual ally pages that typically give me nourishment, strength and resolve, were not providing me what I needed that morning.  Why are you not saying their names?  Where’s their photo that the station and others were requesting to be immediately disseminated?  Why are you not demanding the videos be immediately withdrawn?  Why are you immediately politicizing this (within hours after they died) and taking positions that insist that the videos should remain and we simply have to deal with it?

Guess what–Friends– I saw so many people of color that morning demanding just the opposite. Take it down! Deactivate his account! Don’t watch! And: Saying.Their.Names.



With prayers.  And soon thereafter with other pictures.  Happy pictures.  Smiles.  Bright pictures. Beacons of Light, desperately trying to penetrate through the darkness. Personalities too have emerged a bit with some of the photos that I have seen.

But not from the sites that typically give me the encouragement to continue, within what seems to be a continuing dark, stormy, gloomy sea that seems to surround humanity right now.

We could tweet and post photos after Charleston…9 separate photos to be exact….but we couldn’t tweet or post two photos of smiling, bright, engaging souls, also ruthlessly and horrifically cut down.

Oh, the humanity! If you take the time and read the various public postings on this site, you will see a reoccurring theme with respect to humanity: specifically my concerns regarding divisiveness, separateness, even within activist circles.  If we stay within what some would call a tribal consciousness, believing our way is the one and only true way, humanity will continue to be surrounded by cruel, violent seas, becoming a “horror picture show” at times for us to see.

On the surface we may look different- skin color- perhaps act different- different frameworks-world views- different life experiences to be sure- but “there is the free fall into the boundless abyss of God in which we all meet one another, beyond all distinctions, beyond all designations. This is the oneness that includes all distinctions” (James Finley).

While I come from a Christian framework, I have been greatly influenced by indigenous world views and teachings…many of which are actually amazingly similar and intersect with Christian beliefs.  Intersect is the key, however.  In other words, we interconnect with each other, which implies co-existing, co-dependence upon one another and not monopolizing, coercion, dominating, or controlling.

Many indigenous prayers, “often close with ‘all my relations’. Whatever has been said is said in the presence of all these relations. The gathered human beings are merely the start of these relations. ‘All My Relations’ includes the entire created world, animals, fish, plants, winds, and more. Imagine calling on the whole to witness your prayer, your commitment, your good words. Imagine being responsible to all of that.” (Peter Haresnape).

Ok, time for a disclaimer: Peter and I worked together. While we both find ourselves on Turtle Island (aka North America), I jokingly say he’s in the Northern end (known to many as Canada) and I’m in the mid-section (known to many as the United States) and I miss him terribly.  I am quite moved by what he wrote.

Let’s continue: “How are we known? By our fruit. Good fruit or bad fruit in relation to other people, of course. In terms of Christian service and good works. But there is more. I don’t think fruit is simply a randomly chosen metaphor. I think it speaks to our relationship with place, with the world, with the land. Do grapes come from thorns? Is our mission to the world one that feeds, and blesses, and nurtures growth? Are we a natural part of this region, harmonious and worthy? Or are we a fierce, invasive species, poisonous and thorny and choking out other life?”

I was also deeply moved-to the point of deep, deep heartache- by the fact that the Charleston 9 were praying and studying the Parable of the Sower before hell unleashed its fury upon them (Mark 4: 1-20).  “And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, and sixty and a hundredfold” (verse 20, New Revised Standard Version).

We are to raise each other up, higher and higher. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11) by nurturing growth among each other.

Even when we are in intense pain, wondering when we will feel the presence of our Living Sustainer and waiting for the weeping to stop.  Let’s honor each other. We can venture towards the center of the room and intersect.  This is not supposed to be about the number of likes, shares or re-tweets. We can certainly lift up prayers. We can certainly disseminate smiling, beautiful faces, regardless of ultimate opinions with perceived slanted media coverage or how this particular horror relates, or differs, with the many police shooting images and those lives also tragically affected.

All of us simply want to be remembered and known, for who we are.  We usually have a choice with that: how we identify, dress, occupation, how we live our lives and interact with the world-our relations.

Hours before he died, Tywanza Sanders, the youngest of the Chareleston 9 (26 years old) put up his final post on Snapchat, a meme with a quote from Jackie Robinson. It read: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Just as with the Charleston 9, and the countless others, we are again seeing just how much people we did not personally know impacted all their relations…which, now, includes us.

But you know- it always has included us….We.Are.Interconnected.

I join WDBJ7: “We will not let the way Adam and Alison died overshadow the way they lived.”

So will you link arms with me, and other people of color with that?

Alison Parker…..¡Presente!

Adam Ward…..¡Presente!


Mitakuye Oyasin – Lakota Sioux Prayer

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin….

All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer….

To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.

To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.

To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.

To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.

To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.

To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages, I thank you.

To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.

You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.

Thank you for this Life.


….. Selah.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: