“As a society, we are vastly overdue for a more profound definition of safety, one that is not shaped by fear but by compassion.” – Mark Gonzales
picture courtesy of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice
I headed out into the morning fog to catch a bus downtown to the plaza, where another bus was waiting. I was joining a group of activists heading to Sacramento climbing onto a bus usually used to ferry revelers to football games. Though the bus was filled with music, laughter, the sharing of apples, and drinking of coffee and tea, it was not a party we were heading to, not a game. We were riding because too many people are dead, killed by those we collectively pay to protect us.
Across from me was the grandmother of a dead teen. Sitting next to me was the sister of a woman killed by six officers after a call to get her to the relative safety of a hospital psych ward overnight. In talking about the case, she occasionally tripped up, calling Kayla “my brother” in her distress. She’s been fighting for justice for her sister for two years.
As I stood on the capitol steps in Sacramento, I couldn’t help but feel a combination of deep sorrow, heart break, and anger. Too many memorial signs. Jeralynn Blueford, whom I’ve written of many times, spoke, just one out of fifty families gathered to speak for their dead fathers, brothers, sisters, and husbands. This gathering represented a fraction of those killed by police. Reports come in each month of unarmed citizens killed by tasers, guns, and beatings. The police are rapidly becoming more militarized, relying on violent force as the first line of intervention. Yet police culture dictates that those officers concerned by or opposed to use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings not speak for fear of ostracization.
As we were marching in the state capitol, a thirteen year old boy was killed by sheriffs less than two hour’s drive away. He was playing in his yard with a toy gun.
My latest book and much of the work I do with clients examines how desire helps us to step into our purpose, creating the lives – and the world – we want to manifest. I thought about that, while marching under the hot sun.
I was in Sacramento not only to stand with and march with these families – mostly working class, mostly people of color – I was in Sacramento because:
I want to manifest a world in which we don’t police one another to death. I want to manifest a world of mutual aid. I want to manifest a world where racism and class oppression don’t dictate who gets to live and who dies.
photo courtesy of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice
En route back to the capital building, after marching to District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office to deliver a coffin and some letters, I was talking with a woman whose feet hurt. Her black patent dress sandals were inappropriate for marching. She’d been heading to the courthouse to file some papers, saw us, and joined the march. Her mentally ill son was in jail with a $250,000 bond and no access to his medication. Yet another case where mental illness was being criminalized. I asked if a lawyer was helping her. No. Quickly, I ran back to the local representative of the National Lawyers Guild to ask if he could get a contact for her. Last I saw, they were exchanging information, using the hood of a parked car as a desk.
The poor have a hard time navigating systems set up by and for the rich. I know this, from my own struggles trying to figure out how to go to college. Read that first line again: The poor have a hard time navigating systems set up by and for the rich. Why are our systems set up by and for the rich? What kind of world have we made manifest, and why?
I want to manifest a world of mutual aid, where we truly care for one another: A world where art, music, and beauty are valued. A world where the dignity of all is recognized. A world where we value trees, and air, and oceans. A world where our cultural differences enrich rather than impoverish and divide us.
I want to manifest a world where we recognize that Love is the Law and do our best to live accordingly.
What sort of world do you wish to manifest?
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Tomorrow in Oakland the Urban Shield conference starts. I intend to be out, meditating on the sidewalk, joining the community picket, and helping to read a litany of the names of those killed by police in California.
It has been a week of re-arranging my work schedule. But all of this is my work as well.