So many of us are asking what we can do to make things better? What can we do to change the current situation, make the killings stop, help our communities be safer?
I didn’t say much about it, but last week while we were in Charleston I looked for ways to honor the Charleston 9, the victims of last year’s shooting at Mother Emanuel. Because I attended a historically Black seminary that is heavily supported by the AME Zion church, I am linked to Mother Emanuel in some very personal ways. Because I am human, I am linked to those 9 victims. Because I am Christian, I am even linked to the shooter because we believe his sins are atoned as ours are.
In many ways the Charleston community keeps going, although Charleston Strong banners are able to be seen and tributes remain at Mother Emanuel. Mother Emanuel continues to be the community foundation it ever was, remaining dedicated to Ministry rather than becoming a tourist trap it could become if it were worldly-minded.
The Black community of artists in Charleston are continuing their own work to help process and express and honor those horrific events. There are several opportunities to view their work, the Gibbes Museum is featuring an exhibit on the 3rd floor called “The Things We Carry,” for example.
We chose to show up last week. One such artist, Dr. Leo Twiggs, created a series of 9 paintings and on Friday night he hosted an artist’s reception at City Gallery to showcase his paintings. While it was certainly not heroic for us to attend, and my point is not to say what a great thing we did, I have to believe that it meant something to the artist that white faces were there. It meant something to us, to go and view his paintings and show support to the Black art community of Charleston.
Artists are some of the bravest, most sensitive people in the world. We are creatives. We live and breathe the world around us and we process our experiences publicly each time the brush washes over the page. Dr. Twigg used his paint brush to remind us that our Ecclesial symbols of the cross, the steeple, the colors purple and gold are indeed capable of erasing worldly symbols of hate, sin, and power.
Today I continue to process our visit as my own brush washes over my own paper. And my mind goes to what can we do? Why, we simply have to begin showing up. White people, when was the last time we stepped into a Black event? Why haven’t we? Is it fear that Black people will shush us back out the door? Is it fear that we are participating in something that is wrong? Is it fear that we might have to look at the 12 boxes on the wall, 9 of them with crosses and 3 of them empty to recognize the 3 survivors? If we want to stop police killings, and pedestrian killings, and driver killings, we as white people have to start showing up for Black artists and shop owners and communities. If we want Black communities to have brighter futures we as white people have to support them and include them just as we include our own! I truly believe that as we start showing up, we begin to understand. And as we begin to understand, we begin to remove hate. And as we, within ourselves, begin to remove the hate that is in ourselves, then we can bring all our communities into brighter tomorrows. But first we have to show up.