Grief by your side and hope in your pocket
A meditation after another video surfaces of a Black man killed by police
My body knew before my brain did. One of these days I’ll listen.
I had all these plans to be productive. I even had a checklist for myself. By 10 am it felt like I’d already had a 12-hour work day. My arms felt heavy. I had no energy.
I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so sluggish. It wasn’t until I had come home after zombie shuffling through my day that I finally realized…the video was about to drop.
Like some macabre movie premier, the Memphis Police Department said it was going to release the video of Tyre Nichols being brutalized by cops at 7 pm ET.
I finally realized that I had been mentally suppressing my dread, but my body still felt it.
I told myself I wouldn’t watch it. But then I did. Or I tried to. I couldn’t finish it.
The visuals are always horrific, but for me it’s the sounds. I couldn’t stand to hear Tyre pleading, “I didn’t do anything.” I hated the sound of the rubber soles of the officers’ shoes slapping the pavement as they chased their victim down the road. I heard from news reports that some of Tyre’s final words were shouts for his mother.
The weariness I had felt in my body for the entire day sank down into my soul.
I had nothing. Nothing left to give. Nothing left to say. Nothing left but lament.
But late at night, while the video of those officers brutalizing one of their “skinfolk” still streamed on a loop on every news channel, I realized it’s okay to be weary. It’s appropriate to be angry. It’s right to be frustrated.
The scripture verse that rose in my consciousness came from Psalm 13:1.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long, Lord?
How long until the police system as we know it is torn down and replaced with healing? How long until the “one bad apple” excuses rot into oblivion? How long until Black mothers no longer have to weep for the lives of their sons stolen by those charged to serve and protect? How long until our melanated skin is not weaponized against our existence?
I'm a proponent of "feeling what you feel." We shouldn't rush to find the silver lining or the happy feelings in every situation. It's a process.
Our feelings are not on anyone else’s timeline. The solution to tragedy is not to pretend as if we don’t feel the heaviness of sadness. Sit with grief. Get acquainted. It will show up again and again in life. May as well set an extra place at the table of your emotions.
I was prepared to go to sleep feeling nothing but the grief, but I was surprised by hope.
I was scrolling through social media and paused at a brief clip of inspiring humanity. A magician wanted to do a coin trick, but the person he approached was blind.
Instead of moving on to someone else, the magician said, “I really want you to experience the magic right now.”
So he thought for a second and came out with a coin.
The magician adapted the trick on the fly for the blind man, and narrated the entire process. As soon as the magician did the big reveal, the blind man’s face lit up with surprise, delight, and bewilderment. He got just as much joy out of the trick as those around him who could see. You could tell it was also a special experience for the magician, too.
At the end of the trick, the magician said the man could keep the coin.
A coin. Nothing large. But just big enough to hold on to.
Maybe hope is like that coin. Maybe it appears out of thin air like a magician doing a trick. Small but delightful. Just big enough to fit in your pocket and take it with you.
I'm so sorry Dr. Tisby. I couldn't bring myself to listen or watch the video. I could only prayer last night for peace in communities - to avoid more violence. As a mom of three, I can't imagine the horrible pain his parents and siblings are subjected to - and they are just a few of the many in America's sad tale.
Jemar, thank you so much for writing this and for your continued witness. Yes, how long O Lord? I wrote a sort of response, “Living into Lament” here: https://robertpjones.substack.com/p/living-into-lament