We have entered a time when we can no longer ignore the cries of “I can’t breathe,” “Stop killing us” and “Black lives matter” ringing from the voices of the Black community. How we have ignored these cries for so long is beyond my comprehension. I have begun the process of educating myself by listening, and I have promised to simply do better. But this promise is only as good as the verifiable actions I take in my life.
I have made many changes in the ways I protest. Aside from attending every protest possible, I wear a protest T-shirt almost every single day. I have several shirts that are bold with the message of "Black lives matter." Wearing these shirts is an easy way to protest passively while making an impact. I have had great conversations about the subject of protest on my shirts. I have also infuriated those who are steeped in racism and white fragility. I am able to create a mini protest within a larger movement, a protest of one, anywhere I go.
My family has taken action by hanging a "Black lives matter" flag from our home. At first our children, who have been brought up to love people, were afraid that someone would vandalize our house, coming from a place of hate. This was also at the forefront of my mind. As you may have read last week, we at Westminster Presbyterian Church recently experienced acts of hate, stealing and defacing the "Black lives matter" sign on our front lawn. Our family’s decision to hang up the flag was the right thing to do, and it has flown from our house ever since. Only once did someone say something negative about it, but my husband ensured the conversation was brief.
There are many positive outcomes from flying this flag on our home. People with whom we have never spoken before smile and wave or stop to talk. We have shown our home and our family to be a safe space. Our biracial foster son has taken pride in being the one to place the flag pole in its holder on the house each morning. He is reminded that his life matters before most of the occupants in our home awaken. One day I was standing on the porch and two children, approximately 8 to 10 years old, were racing down the sidewalk on their bikes. The young white girl yelled with excitement in her voice to her friend to look at the flag. He immediately looked up with pride glowing on his face. He proclaimed in a loud and sure voice, “Black lives matter. I’m Black and my life matters!” It was in that moment I realized, if no one ever sees that flag flowing in the breeze from our home again, it is OK. The flag has done its job by affirming this little boy. It was a beautiful affirmation that I am sure his parents have reinforced since his birth, but this time, he saw it hanging on a white neighbor’s home.
A friend of mine, who lives on a well-traveled road in a rural area, recently told me she was driving home from work and she witnessed a single white teenager standing at the end of his driveway holding a sign that simply said, "Black lives matter." It was a small but meaningful act against hatred.
Days after it was stolen and retrieved, the "Black Lives Matter" sign in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn has been vandalized.
It is times like this when we hear of the murders of people such as Elijah McCain, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Botham Jean and the list goes on — it is times like these when our voices must lift up the message of the Black community. Black lives matter. Black lives are holy lives. The Black community is a holy community. Until we can look deep into the eyes of Black men, women and children, proclaiming their holiness as the image of God coming from the farthest reaches of every sinew of our bodies — until then, we have work to do. Until all people see the value, humanity and beauty in every person of color, we must continue to educate ourselves and others. We can make a difference, one small act at a time, whether it be holding a sign at the end of your driveway, wearing a T-shirt or hanging a flag. It can have an enormous impact in this great movement against the injustice of hatred and bigotry. Do something, regardless of how small.
Kimberly Patch is a graduate (M.A., Master of Divinity) of Northeastern Seminary. She is an inquirer for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, under the care of Westminster Presbyterian Church. She lives in Auburn with her husband and children. She is also a foster mother, a social justice advocate and president of the board of directors of the new Auburn Hunger Task Force, which is working to provide free daily meals to the Auburn community. For more information, visit westminsterauburn.org.
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