Last Friday I did something I’ve never done before. I’ve considered it in the past, but never pulled the trigger. My husband Mike and I decided to drive into the city and join a march for justice and peace. Held on Black Friday, the march brought Michigan Avenue, the well known shopping district, to a stand still.
For those outside of Chicago, the news story occupying the headlines here this past week, is the story of 17 year old Laquan McDonald, a young man shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer. For those assuming that the police officer who shot Laquan McDonald was in imminent danger, that did not appear to be the case after viewing police dash cams. McDonald was running away from the officer when the shooting took place.
There are many issues being elevated with the death of Laquan McDonald. Police brutality, for one, and possible corruption for another. After a 400 day cover up, ensuring Mayor Emmanuel’s re-election, people are now calling for him, the police chief, and the Cook County State’s Attorney to all step down.
That is all just background, not really the point of what I’m writing about. My decision to join in and march for justice and peace has been a long time coming. I haven’t always felt free to be my own person, to do what I felt was right. The reasons for that are now in my past, but I knew now was the time to stand in solidarity with my African American brothers and sisters who have experienced decades, even centuries of injustice. It’s scary stepping out and deciding to march for the first time. It was cold and rainy and we could have easily stayed home or started our own Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Somehow Mike and I knew it was time.
We made the slow walk to Michigan Avenue after we’d parked our car. We stayed on the sidewalk for about 10 minutes and then we knew it was time to step into the flow, immerse ourselves fully in the stream. As we stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, my eyes welled up with tears. I worked hard to keep them at bay as we walked along moving closer to the Water tower. I thought of an African American friend from work who mentioned she’d be marching. I knew we’d never find her in the sea of humanity inching along Michigan Avenue. I kept looking around and hoping, though. Then, four rows up and to my left a woman turned slightly, her profile exposed from under her furred hood. It was Tasha. I grabbed Mike and told him. He said, “Get to her. I’ll watch where you go and move toward you. Just go!” It probably took five minutes to weave my way there. When I’d finally danced my way to her, I touched her back and she turned. As we looked into each other’s eyes, the tears began to stream down our faces and we embraced. I haven’t fully formed my thoughts about what happened, but we were bonded in that moment, in an instant. Important for her, important for me, for different reasons.
I’m grateful I didn’t let my excuses keep me from experiencing this gift from God.