Tag Archives: Baltimore riots

Freddie Gray: One Year Later

Cf24phIWsAAYUrjMany are asking what has changed one year after the senseless death of Freddie Gray. One year ago, the 21 year old man died after suffering a severed spinal cord after what has been described as “a wild ride” in the back of a police van.  The city of Baltimore burned before our eyes and today, its police officers and citizens are trying to find meaning in the midst of the ashes.

More than a mural or a hash tag, what is the message that we are sending regarding his death?  What are we saying in retrospect?  What does his death mean to us in this moment?  Or, has it lost momentum?  Buried, has the cycle of grief led us to accept his death– no matter its cause?

Unfortunately, for some, his name has just been added to the list.  He is another example, apart of the growing number of deaths while in police custody.  But, that cannot be the end of his life.  Surely, we must carry him on but not just on anniversaries or t- shirts. He is not a product, his name becoming no more than a chant.

No, his life must be returned to him but not the one taken that dreadful day.  But, the one that justice owes him.  We must answer the questions that his death, his buried body raises.  What about me?  One year later, do we have answer?

Examining the Depraved Heart

WPTV_FREDDIE_GRAY_1430492578902_17662111_ver1.0_320_240Clearly, I am still thinking about the death of Freddie Gray and Officer Goodson, one of six officers charged with crimes that led to his untimely death.  Officer Goodson has been charged with second degree depraved heart murder.  Thanks to a twenty- four- hour news cycle and countless crime shows, I am too familiar with the charge of second degree murder.  Perhaps, I have become desensitized and disconnected because this tragedy is performed for my entertainment season after season finale with heart- pounding scene cutaways and climactic music.

But, I have been jarred by the video of Freddie Gray’s arrest; Kevin Moore, the man who captured the last moments he was seen alive, has come forward.  This is not reality television; we are watching real life.  While questions are being raised regarding the knife that was in Mr. Gray’s possession and subsequently, the legality of his arrest is being argued for and against, I am stuck.  I can’t move on until we deal with this depraved heart.

A young man has died while in police custody; that cannot be argued.  The fact of his funeral cannot be changed or altered.  Is the mourning over?  Has our heart healed?  Have we even acknowledged the depth of loss due to his death and the trust for the law that has seemingly been broken again?

Our relationship with each other has taken another blow.  Will we just prepare ourselves for the next offense?  Or, will we stop to examine how we got here and why we do not want this to happen again?  Will we set up boundaries to ensure mutual respect?  Will we get to the heart of the matter at all?

Why are the images of Gray’s arrest upsetting?  What expectations for human relationships regardless of position have not been met?  And how can we raise the standard of our living together?  When did we stop caring about each other?  When did our heart change and become hardened?  They talk about hardened criminals but I wonder if we have become hardened human beings.  How could our heart turn away and allow a man to die not in the arms of a loved one or in presence of family and friends but alone with hands and feet bound on the cold floor of a police van?  That the heart of the matter; that’s the evidence that I want examined.

Life after the death of Freddie Gray

images-1President Barack Obama has called for “soul searching” but I wonder what are we in search of?  What are we looking for that might challenge us to do what is right, just and fair in the eyes of the Law?  What do we need that would allow us to look into the eyes of another human being and see ourselves?  What are we missing when six officers act in concert to deny the pleas of twenty- five year old Freddie Gray for medical attention and ultimately to save his life?  What have we lost when we find it easier to set buildings on fire than to set up meetings with community leaders and government officials?

I know that we’re looking for more than one thing, that this will not be a one- stop conversation.  I am sure that we will not find it with the change of government administrations or with the implementation of committees, councils and town hall meetings.  No, each of us must do the work.  I am certain that we are not looking for one person, one answer, one guilty verdict… or six.  No, the search will involve us all and a serious look at the ways in which we have collaborated with a community that judges based on the social coloring of skin, that cares not for the human soul, the life force that she and he represents.

I only ask that we not delay the process, that we not make excuses or judgments that might prevent us from looking for as long as it takes, that we remove the red tape and let down our guard.  I ask that we not hide what needs to be healed, that we do the hard work and not take the easy way out via denial and apathy, anger and resentment, self – segregation and white flight.  I beg us not to give up on the search for the goodness that lies in the depths of us, that we not just scratch the surface and pretend that a discovery has been made.  Instead, I pray that we might dig deeper so that families don’t have to lower their sons and daughters six feet deeper than they should be, that we might have a better life above ground that is truer and richer life after the death of Freddie Gray.

God, have mercy on us as we search our souls.  Amen.

When Love Rules Us

untitledIt seems only natural when there is an attraction, a shared smile, butterflies in our stomach or a sweaty hand is extended.  We think that love only exists when we feel it or are in the mood or when it is an even exchange.  No, God is Love and God is ever-present. Consequently, Love is and will always be.

But, Love and God are a choice and while the existence of both are not optional, we do have a say in the way we will be ruled–either by our carnal inclinations and passions or that of the Spirit of Love.  We can choose our way of thinking and being in the world and with our neighbors.

Baltimore is not only on map but on our minds.  We are not thinking about the city in terms of sports or seafood but because of death.  The untimely, mysterious and tragic death of Mister Freddie Gray, his severed spine while in police custody, has people talking.  The dialogue made some persons so angry that they took it out on property, setting innocent buildings and cars on fire.  They involved bricks, bottles and other projectiles in their dispute with the use of force, hurling them at police officers not involved with Mr. Gray’s death.  Disappointed, shocked and tired of hearing these kinds of stories, they were taking out their anger on other people.

And I think that more than anger was speaking.  I believe that they were acting out of fear, that those who looted were afraid.  Now, I cannot point to which part of their person, whether mind, heart or soul was threatened, but they were not attacking for no reason.  Perhaps, it is a ghost, an apparition that they were chasing or running away from.

Maybe it is the ghost of race.  We see it and hear its chains.  And it frightens us to believe that our lives are not safe when race is around, at play or at work within us.  So, we scream, “Black lives matter!” because we don’t want to die.  The racialized life is one lived fearfully.

Unfortunately, if we do not talk about race and its impact on us, if we do not stop seeing, believing in, judging and treating persons according to the social coloring of skin, then it will happen again.  We will repeat the story until we are tired of hearing it.  Or, we can interrupt race and the cycles of abuse with Love.  We can allow Love to interject and set the tone.  We can trust Love and submit to its sovereignty.

And I know that we don’t feel like Love is right word or the appropriate response to the accusations and occasions of police brutality.  We want something greater than Love but that does not exist.  We must trust Love in this moment, surrendering what has been for Who will always be.

When Love rules us, we cannot fall in and out of it.  Love is unconditional.  When Love rules us, it is the content of our consciousness.  We live, move and can only be in Love (Acts 17.26).  When Love rules us, we are its citizens.  We must not leave this kingdom.



Overruled by Love

suspect-dies-baltimoreBaltimore, Maryland is burning.  Protesters and looters have flooded the streets in response to the questionable death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  Stores have been vandalized, buildings and police cars set on fire.  A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard have been called in.

Tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas, curfews are all in effect.  External force is the order of our days.  But, what of the spiritual force that lies within us?  Dr. King called it “soul force.”  What of the power of the human soul to change?  And how are we prepared to meet these hurting souls so that we might effect sound change?

This is an all too familiar story in America.  In fact, it is the American story, the tragedy of race.  We know the lines and yet, we have not figured out how to stop repeating them.  We know violence only produces more violence.  We recite the words of Dr. King, “Hate cannot drive out hate.”  But, this recipe is not only for riots but for the relationships that we have with each other today and every day after the smoke settles.

We know both sides, the pros and cons.  We know the charges of our history and what has been our defense.  We have been the judge but I think that today is as good a day as any to get up. We need to be overruled by Love.

We need the Power greater than ourselves Who can do what we cannot because He knows what we find so hard to believe: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails” (First Corinthians 13.7-8).

I know that we cannot see it now but Love will win.