I know, for many, the statement “Black Lives Matter” can be controversial or problematic. I often hear the counter response, “All Lives Matter” or among police “Blue Lives Matter.” And, of course, all are true.
But if we are honest, and truly want to understand what is behind the statement that Black lives matter, we have to be willing to try to understand what it is like growing up Black in America.
The Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation has an arts program. It is not because we are an arts organization, but because the arts allow us to express a part of ourselves that otherwise is left unspoken. At the very core of trauma healing is being able to speak out loud the pain that you carry. If you are not able to acknowledge your pain or if your pain remains foreign to you, then your pain will continue to injure you as well as others.
Here’s a poem for the world to hear:
by Joseph K.
Why can’t I live in your world?
A world where children don’t die on the way to the park?
Why can’t I live in a place
Where I don’t have to watch
Where the police are there to
serve and protect?
People ask about the violence
Don’t you see?
Can’t you understand?
Your world has what children need; my world doesn’t.
I can’t see tomorrow.
I just can’t.
I am tryin’
People be tellin’ me,
“Your gotta think of your future.”
But I can’t see it.
People want to see it for me
like it’s theirs.
You think I don’t want to see it?
You think I like thinking about dying?
But that’s what I know.
What I know is that I saw how they killed my homie, my friend, my best friend!
I saw how they killed my uncle and his brother and my mama’s father.
Killing is in my blood – it’s my heritage.
You talk about a job, or going to college or a career.
But you don’t know.
You don’t want to know.
I can’t see tomorrow.
A longtime youth worker once said that the greatest thing we can offer our children is our time and our attention. No program, no curriculum, no project is as powerful as allowing a child to be heard, to know that (s)he is not alone, and to openly speak of the wounds that (s)he carries. That is equally true for us adults.
Black Lives Matter is, at its core, a call for us to listen and to try to understand. Black Lives Matter, as a movement or cry, does not mean that all lives don’t matter; it means that there are those in our society who have a different experience than those of us who are white, not because of their character, but because of the color of their skin.
I would like to conclude with this quote from Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti:
“It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. “Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”.* Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.” (Fratelli Tutti, #8)
*Address at the Ecumenical and Interreligious Meeting with Young People, Skopje, North Macedonia (7 May 2019): L’Osservatore Romano, 9 May 2019, p. 9.
Story by Father David Kelly, C.PP.S., executive director, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation