June 7, 2020 was a day that changed everything for me. It changed everything for a lot of people. That was the day of the “March Against Racism” in Bend Oregon. Hundreds of people marched from a mile from the Old Mill District,
taking over the streets, chanting with their arms linked together, arriving on the steps of the Deschutes County Courthouse. Shortly thereafter, we gathered at Troy Field for a vigil memorializing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and several others. I took stock in that day here: https://www.oddzuki.com/march-against-racism-bend-oregon/
This was the first time that I spoke about racial injustice in a public forum. This was also my first time to speak in front of a crowd in Central Oregon. Little did I know that day would change things forever for me. Less than a year’s time has passed since I marched down Bond Street with my wife and daughter at my side, calling cadences in remembrance of Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and so many others. We were fresh off the heels of the murder of George Floyd. That man’s name is forever etched in the history books. Yesterday the dramatic conclusion to a trial that was watched and reported on all over the world. The culmination of the Derek Chauvin case ended with three verdicts decided by a jury of his peers:
On the charge of Second-Degree Unintentional Murder: Guilty
When they read that first verdict, I had not realized at the moment that I was holding my breath. But I can tell you that I exhaled loud enough to startle myself. A few tears began to roll down my face as the judge continues…
On the charge of Third-Degree murder of perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life: Guilty
At this point I started crying. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Two guilty verdicts?
On the charge of Second-Degree manslaughter for culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm, we find the defendant: Guilty
By now I’m ugly crying and I cannot control it. I’m looking through blurred, tear filled vision and I hear that bail is denied and he is to be remain in jail. Derek Chauvin, the former cop that murdered George Floyd is cuffed and escorted out of the courtroom. Trying to not sob is moot at this point and my boys have all come into the room and wrapped themselves around me. This moment in history, surrounded by my sons reminds me why me and thousands of others across the country have been out in the streets protesting, meeting with elected officials, getting into positions of power to right these wrongs; recreating a system that is no longer benefits some and not all, but is equitable and just.
I see a post appear on Facebook calling for a Healing Circle to be held at Peace Corner at 7PM and I make preparations to go. Not even 10 minutes after hearing the verdict, a news story appears on my feed about a 15 year old Black girl that was shot multiple times in the chest after calling police on a fight that was happening outside of her house. Before the people that are ready to say “Well she had a knife, what do you expect?”… I would like to present Kyle Rittenhouse and Dylan Roof, both white males, that killed people with rifles and are alive to this day. Rittenhouse was recently spotted at a bar drinking, underage. Dylan Roof was bought Burger King after being taken into custody. If dangerous people that literally shoot multiple people creating casualties can be brought in unharmed and alive, Ma’Khia Bryant did not have to die. I’ve watched the footage (both normal speed and slowed down). She was in a fight and yes, she had a knife, but I stand by my thought that less than lethal methods could and should have been used to prevent further harm. SAY HER NAME. We are not afforded a moment of rest in these situations. We have not been able to exhale at the first real justice handed down from the courts without gearing up for another vigil, another protest to demand justice be served. I went to the healing circle with this new incident weighing heavy on my heart.
What’s staggering to me is at the time I wrote the June 7th post; I had no real contacts in Bend. I knew clients and my coworkers and that was about it. I marched with hundreds of strangers calling for equality and justice. Fast forward to April 20, 2021 and while the crowd that appeared at Peace Corner was much smaller than the one that was there on June 7th, the Healing Circle was exactly what it was supposed to be. While we all stood with Ma’Khia in our minds and hearts, there was a moment of quiet. The healing circle was somber and peaceful. And for once, we did not have anyone aggressively opposing our presence. The fact that we did not have people yelling and screaming at us, using racial slurs and all too familiar retort “All Lives Matter”, was both refreshing and eerie at the same time. We were able to come together, speak on past events and hope for a better future. One of the biggest differences for me was, while at the June 7th vigil, I was a new speaker among many new contacts that would turn into friends in this journey, I had the absolute privilege to stand side by side with some incredibly strong people to encourage the community to keep moving forward. We explained how these convictions were just the very beginning. The quest for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion wasn’t even in chapter one yet. We have been living in the prequels. It’s time for this story to begin.
This country has a long way to go. As a friend of mine says often: We are planting seeds. This is difficult work and can cause a lot of frustration leading to a feeling like we are consistently spinning our wheels. Thankfully for our local area, I feel that on June 7th, many of us were activated in this community and we join a global family of so many others ready to fight for the Equity and Justice that every person deserves.
Lastly, the picture I’ve attached to this post (directly above) is something that has hit me pretty hard. A friend of mine captured this moment right before we began and after it was all done, one of the organizers of the Healing Circle (among many other events in Bend) said to me before we all departed “I’ve been smiling all evening. I just realized that I don’t know when the last time that’s happened”. There was a peace and calm about the gathering. This is what we’ve been marching towards. This was the first large hurdle we’ve cleared and we know there are many more. But for that hour that we were there at Peace Corner, it truly felt good to be able to smile.