I mean no disrespect by posting this. But it may be triggering for some, and if so, I deeply apologize. My thoughts are heavy this morning and getting them off my chest feels necessary and urgent.
After yesterday’s funeral for Chris Wells, a Black friend of mine said, “I feel so much better. Black funerals always make me feel better.” I hated that I had to admit I felt better, too, but the thought I couldn’t shake following that exchange was that Black people are probably so much better at conducting funerals because of how often they must have them.
Since moving to Louisville, I’ve been to more funerals than any other place I’ve lived. I can’t remember a single one of these funerals that wasn’t for a Black person. But the funeral for Chris was everything. It brought #Breewayy together again. It connected the movement work to mental health, and nothing, I mean NOTHING, was left unsaid. I felt more moved, cleansed, validated, justified, loved and determined than I’ve felt in a very long time. I felt connected. Part of something bigger:
A community. A movement. A journey. A destiny.
As the church choir sang, “Hold on, help is on the way,” my mind wandered as I watched the church fill with people who loved and revered Chris. “And to think he felt unseen,” my pewmate whispered to me.
I ruminated on her words. It’s not enough just to counsel someone out of despair only to send them back into a rigged system to do it all over again. There has to be action! There has to be validation that they are NOT WRONG. There has to be HOPE. There has to be evidence that the arc is bending toward justice, and we must eliminate the continuous, avoidable and intentional setbacks. If we want to stem the violence against Black people, WE, white people, have to do our parts! We cannot continue to look away!
Back into my thoughts as more people poured in until it overflowed and filled the back of the room, I remembered times I felt unseen. Times I felt invalidated, helpless and hopeless. And all the times I wanted to quit. And then, I remembered my privilege. That I could just walk away at any time. If it got so helpless and hopeless that it threatened my mental health, I could take a vacation and come back refreshed. I could steal away to my house in a quiet, mostly white suburb and sleep soundly until I was caught up on my bills and personal life. My Black friends can’t do that. They are Black all the time. Every single fucking interaction and transaction they encounter risks a passive aggressive move from some closeted bigot or an outright threat to their lives.
Next came the family. Mom wailed as she said her final goodbyes to her brilliant, promising, beautiful 33-year-old son. My body writhed as I allowed my mind to imagine being in her shoes for a split second, as if that were my own son laying there. I screamed silently. I felt helpless, hopeless, desperate. Lost.
I was aware of the circumstances surrounding Chris’ death. But this is a funeral. We gloss over the uncomfortable (or is that just a white thing?) I expected to leave that service feeling Chris’ legacy validated (even if too late). But I did not expect so many of my burning questions would be answered. And I certainly did not expect to leave having my own experiences validated. Like another sign from an angel to #KeepGoing. A message from our ancestors. Affirmation.
I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. I invite you to read more about my spiritual journey.
Words from several of the speakers yesterday, but in particular Shameka L. Parrish-Wright and Attica Scott confirmed my beliefs that this journey is righteous and in fact, spiritual. Movement work is sacred work. Chris’ death is not unrelated to the reason we march in the first place. His death will not be in vain. We will #KeepGoing and we must learn to #GivePeopleTheirFlowers before it’s too late.
You don’t ‘have to be religious to have a moral compass. You just have to have empathy. To love thy neighbor as thyself. The greatest of these is love. To care for the least of these. Sound familiar?
Chris’ service also included incredible musical performances as well as spoken word poetry by Hannah Drake. Below is a link to the entire service. I encourage you to watch it if you were unable to attend.
Contrast this experience with a mostly white non-denominational church I attended on Sunday. (It’s the first church service I attended since moving to Louisville.) They said a lot of nice things. Right things. But then they went to lunch or to work in the yard. I have found that most white people I ask for help or to follow up on things there was consensus on during a meeting conveniently have other plans, or worse, sabotage yours.
Despite overwhelming loss, trauma and grief, and insurmountable odds, the Black people I spend the most time with are living His prophecy. They show up. They are doing His work.
I wish more white people practiced what they preached.
And I wish my Black friends didn’t have to say another mother fucking name.
*If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call 988 in KY. You are loved. Hold on. Help is on the way.