By Caenisha Warren
There has been weariness in my mind, body and soul. It’s brought me to wonder whether I should withdraw from work, church, family, friends. Then I think but God…God created us within and for community. If that speaks any truth over my life and being, then there is some reason God has me present for such a time as this. And in truth, there is a deep sense and longing for community within me.
At the end of July I became aware of this weariness on a challenging mini-Sankofa Journey. After 10 years in active ministry in justice and reconciliation, I hit a wall and I was growing weary of the white spaces that surrounded me. I entered the University’s academic year this way. I wondered, could I ask this community to hear and hold my places of wrestling?
I sat in a prayer service that was a lamenting response to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Phillando Castille. I sat amidst a primarily white gathering with an anxious sense that this service wasn’t safe for me. These were brief thoughts I wrote after that prayer service: The comforts of prayer are impacted by the community it’s given in. That is not to say less of the actual prayer offered. The honest cries of a prayer are never discounted. But I sat in a room, praying in “community”, as I lived into my brown skin.
The news as summer continued began to challenge the very life I breathed; as well as new personal experiences that pressed me into a space of marginalization at the intersection of who I am as a woman of color. And then there is the state of politics and the swirl of political rhetoric that has been modeled and practiced, that has made a cause for great concern as well. What kind of society are we regressing towards? It is not just escalated events, or a political stage. It is everyday living that is turning our cities into a scary place to live; and for the marginalized, a scary space to be.
The unsafe space of white surrounding closed in on me in a similar way back on the bus of the Journey. I was weary of the numerous vulnerable sacrifices in regularly being the story of difference. I began wrestling with questions such as, when in discussions over policing and black and brown bodies, do those involved realize that my body, and those I know and love, are the subject? If I reflect over Standing Rock, I am agonizing over the ways that our practices of violence repeat; and how when marginalized voices get raised, the laws of justice somehow become less clear. Native lives matter. Black lives matter.
As you prepare your places of community, I am wondering is it really safe for all? If yes, how will you continue? If no, how will you cultivate, embrace and become a safe community? I left that Sankofa bus with a need for community, but one of safety and protection for the marginalized. If I am going to continue in this ministry, I need this community.