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The Urgency of Connection

by Nan Stoops, WSCADV strategic advisor


The last days of May 2020 were hard. Hearts breaking. Bodies aching. Soul taking. Rage waking. Spirit shaking. Hard. There is not a perfect thing to be said now, on this first day of June 2020, but it feels wrong to stay silent. Remember again the words of Audre Lorde: “Our silence will not protect us.”

Like you, I’ve been watching and reading and trying to connect, as in “connect the dots,” “connect with loved ones,” “connect past with future.”

Some dots that seem not to connect actually do. Watching videos of Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin is a nauseating ride on the “please God, tell me this isn’t real” yo-yo. Describing Amy Cooper’s behavior as a “Karen” trivializes the extent to which it is cut from the same cloth as Derek Chauvin’s. She seemed so ridiculous and over-the-top that she couldn’t possibly be dangerous. He was the hyper-masculine white man in blue, the absolute danger to George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Jr., and the list goes on. White women and white men who strive to be different from Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin, who ARE different from them, this is your time. Your silence will not protect you.

I am desperate to be with my loved ones – my kin, my friends, my beloveds. I confess that I have “flexed” the physical distancing rules when it comes to my 24-year-old son. He works in a grocery store, which makes me both worried and proud. And the only way I can really know how he’s doing is to look him in the eyes – not through Zoom, but up closer (6 feet) and personal. I don’t know what it’s like to be a Black mother. I imagine it as something like this: wrapping my heart’s love for my own son in hundreds of years of fear and sorrow, securing it with resilience and music and laughter, and picking it up each time it thuds to the ground in violence. But I don’t know. I read this article, but mostly stared at the pictures and stayed in the title “The Unbearable Grief of Black Mothers.”  The. Unbearable. Grief. If there is anything I can do – not to make the grief bearable, but to make it possible for there to be less of it – then I had better do it. My silence will not protect me, and it will not protect my son.

We have an obligation to learn and to change. For years, we at WSCADV have used the term “beloved community.” Now, more than ever, it’s important to lift up its roots with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I choose to believe that beloved community is within reach.  I choose to see it above the smoke, beyond the shattered glass, and through fits of hopelessness and despair – our North Star, our beloved community, where silence is replaced by the chorus of our voices, and where protection is no longer necessary.

My friends, we must remain friends. Our lives depend on it. This month, next month, and in all of the months ahead.