January 22, 2015

An Afternoon Walk

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:55 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I took a walk with a couple of hundred people on Monday (including a few members of my congregation and Unitarian Universalists from other parts of Saint Louis). There were other marches that day in other parts of the city, but I chose to go back to Ferguson proper. I had not seen the streets of that town for well over two months.

After an opening speech and prayer we walked the 4 and 1/2 miles from the Canfield apartments to the Ferguson Police station. We listened to a poet and a speech and sang a song, then walked back, chanting all the way.

I smile whenever someone sings out “Show me what democracy looks like” and the people respond with “This is what democracy looks like.” Democracy is messy and can entail some yelling and protesting. Marches alone are not democracy, but they can be part of the processes we value so dearly.

Of the new chants my favorite chant was this one:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other
and protect each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Some people had this on the back of T-shirts with “I learned this from Assata” on the front. But when we asked one woman about that she did not seem to know what it meant. So I did a little internet research. I discovered that these words are from a radical American activist, now exiled in Cuba – Assata Shakur. She says she was shot, unarmed, by the police and framed for the murder of an officer. They say she killed the officer in a shoot-out. She escaped from jail and fled to Cuba, and thinks of herself as an escaped slave.

I still like the words, but with some ambivalence about agenda, or agendas, that they may, or not, hide. Victory against spiritual powers, and principalities in the name of inclusive worth and justice is not the same as victory over persons of flesh and blood. But, ambivalence is not a bad thing. Clarity is not always possible. The whole Civil Rights movement is often like that: excellent, and edgy, importantly good and the cause of suffering, all together.

All-in-all, this walk was a meaningful way to spend a warm afternoon.

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