Last week, after watching three blatantly racist events on TV, followed by the president taking a photo op in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., I wondered: Where are our community leaders? Where is the outrage?
Well, I found them Thursday morning in Agawam Park.
The mayor, trustees, and the pastors of most — maybe all — of the churches in Southampton partook in a peaceful assembly organized by Denise Smith, Juni Wingfield and Leslie Duroseau. The park was filled with about 250 masked and safely spaced participants.
It was both calming and gut-wrenching, but, most of all, it was inspiring.
The pastor of the Presbyterian Church talked about the many years she spent in Minneapolis before she recently came to Southampton, and knew firsthand of the long culture of police brutality against young black men. Lance Gumbs, a trustee on the Shinnecock Tribal Council, relayed the story of when he was a student at Southampton High School: Three football players attacked him with scissors, to cut his hair, as he got off the school bus. Only he got kicked out of school.
There were more stories and more prayers. Father Patrick Edwards humbly read the prayer of St. Francis. The assembly ended with the reading of the names of all the black youths who died in racist incidents.
All lives matter, but “Black Lives Matter” is about racism. If we Americans don’t face it and try to understand it, we won’t survive. Racism is the main story. The violence during this week’s protests is deplorable but it is a side story.
Our community leaders stressed that understanding begins with listening, really listening, and speaking out. It requires humility and growth. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. If you don’t believe in God, just try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Keep your focus on the main story.
I was so proud to be a part of the Southampton community on Thursday. Thank you to all who spoke with such heartfelt honesty. It was balm for my soul.
I would suggest that a similar peaceful assembly be held weekly in Agawam Park.
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One fine body…