Police are allegedly stocking up on riot gear. Shop owners are preparing to shut down and protect themselves from looters. So I was thinking I should prepare for the Ferguson grand jury's announcement too.
Like the police and the shopkeepers appear to be doing, I am preparing for the grand jury to say that Darren Wilson will not be indicted. Here's what I'm doing -- as a white, middle-aged, middle-class clergywoman, 552 miles from Ferguson -- to prepare for the moment when the announcement is made. While your own choices about what to do will likely be different, depending on who and where you are, I encourage you to make plans in advance, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Here are my thoughts:
1. Decide where you want to be and with whom you want to be after you hear the news. You may want to be under the covers with your cat, but if there are particular people you'll want to be with, make arrangements now. You may want to be at a rally at your local police station. As the minister of an online congregation, I'll be hosting an online vigil, a place for people to gather. (We'll be doing a Google on the Air hangout, which you can access by going to our YouTube station).
2. Wherever you are, people may be tense, cranky, brittle, a little off. Shock, grief, rage -- sometimes we don't know how to be together in these moments. Keep breathing. Breathing always helps. These emotions will not disappear overnight. Techniques like tapping to reduce physical overwhelm or trauma can help. Apps like iChill can help. Kindness never hurts.
3. Choose which media to watch and which to avoid. This includes which friends on social media to follow and which to block. There might be family members or friends where I'll want to say something in advance, like, "When the grand jury speaks, I suspect we will have very different reactions. So that I don't say something I'll regret later, I think it would be better if we didn't interact with each other on this topic, so I'm going to block you for a while."
4. Create ways to remind yourself who you are, what matters to you, and what you love, regardless of what the grand jury says. I've decided to create a "Black Lives Matter" altar. You might make a playlist of your favorite music to help you through. Here's a playlist from my congregation called "Grief, Rage and Racism."
5. Many perspectives will be vying with one another to dictate the narrative of what's "really" happened. Pick a perspective that helps you stay present, and stick with it. For me, as a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman, even imagining what it is to be a young black man is virtually impossible. But I am a mother. I can imagine a mother's grief, even if I don't know what it means to be an African-American mother. For me, the person to stick with most closely -- in my imagination, and in every news account possible -- is Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden. I know how it feels to love a child, a young adult child, a child who sometimes makes stupid and irresponsible choices but who nonetheless deserves a chance, deserves to live. I can imagine the grief of losing that child, even though I can't imagine how that grief is compounded with other grieving that African-American mothers do that I don't have to. I hope that, had I endured what Lesley McSpadden endured, I too would be taking it to the UN Committee on Torture. So I'll follow her experience as closely as possible through all the news that unfolds, which will keep me present on a human scale while larger and louder voices vie for attention.
6. I'm scared of militarized police. Some past experiences are still strong for me, and I have a tendency to avoid protest when I think riot gear will be present. But as a white clergywoman, I know that I am at much less risk than others when such forces are present, so I'm vowing now not to let my fear keep me at home should such forces show up at demonstrations here in the Twin Cities, where I live.
7. Keep organizing. This is a moment when new momentum is building, strengthening a national movement about mass incarceration and police violence, just as surely as Emmett Till's death was one of the roots of the civil rights movement in the mid 20th century. Imagine generations to come, looking back and seeing that this is when many locally focused efforts coalesced into a strong national movement for justice and compassion. Stay centered in the living history of all of those people who have brought us to today, and envision the ones we shall never live to see who will take our places tomorrow. Keep in touch with the brave young organizers in Ferguson via Twitter. Learn about some of the communities which have had success in turning things around with police behavior, such as Cincinnati, Ohio, and work in your own community.
The days ahead are going to be tough. As a white woman, I am grateful for all of the strong leaders, particularly people of color, who have faced much tougher days and have learned to build resilience and courage from facing them down.