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Monday, August 22, 2016

Community is Important For More Than Dancing--Philando Castile and Grief.

The other night, from the bathtub, I heard a little voice say, "I wonder what Philando is doing now?"

"What?" Oh no. I am going to have to explain to my child about souls and spirits and heaven, what happens when we die, ground that I'm not exactly sure about myself. "You mean if Phil were here as a ghost?"

"I mean," says the little voice, "What would he be doing if he were alive right now? If he hadn't gotten shot? Would he be shopping? Watching TV? Reading? Playing with Dae Dae?" (The little girl in the car.)

If he were still alive. If Phil were still alive. . .

"I don't know," I say. "He shouldn't be dead. It didn't have to happen. It's so sad. He doesn't get to do any of those things now, because he's dead."

We have volunteered in support of Philando's family and his girlfriend and Dae Dae, the little girl in the car. We have and will continue to take action to make real change against systemic racism, in policing, in education, in prisons, in banking, in community policies, not just here but nationwide. We're trying to get comprehensive supports for our students, something more than a "trauma team" for two weeks. Grief doesn't take just two weeks, and it's not always best expressed through talk therapy, especially not for kids. We're trying, and we're working. We're finding allies, and making change.

Still, it all boils down to one man and his murder, to him bleeding out in a car in front of his now grieving girlfriend and a little girl who considered him nearly a father. It all boils down to his mother, sister, uncle, cousins all having to cope with his never being here again, to the 502 kids at his school and all their parents, and to the staff that he worked with every day--Phil never missed a day--for three years.

So, you put it away for awhile, and you have a great time dancing at a Greek Festival, and the next day, you wake up and read your kid's journal, which says, "I'm stressed out right now. Going back to school, and Pilando (sic) won't be there. Who will be the new lunch guy?"

And you bike to the second day of the Greek Festival, stopping by the school, where you read the notes taped to the door--notes from as far away as Arizona and North Carolina, notes supporting Philando and the school. The notes are touching. Some are from children, with "Miss you, Pil," and sad faces in red paint. One note equates him with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King--my oldest kid points out that that's a faulty analogy--"Phil wasn't an activist. He was just a regular person who shouldn't have been shot." One note says, "Black boys of J.J.Hill Bewear (sic). The next person shot by a police officer could be you."

We take down that note.

Biking away, I am overwhelmed with grief. I don't feel grown up, responsible or mature. I feel angry. And sad. And I want to talk to somebody about it. I'm afraid I'll crash my bike. I'm teary, my throat clogged with emotion so I can't speak.

Our favorite thing at the Greek festival is the communal dancing. Men, women, adults and children, all standing in a line, holding hands and dancing. We don't have enough community in our lives. The Greek festival is a place we go to get some.

At the festival, I run into an ex-J.J.Hill parent, someone who grew up with Phil in the tightly-knit Rondo community. He sends his kids away, and mine go, too, and the tears come out, and he listens for a moment. Community is necessary for more than just dancing. And then, we talk about what he could do for the kids at school, for the supports we're trying to get them--art and music therapy, more than just a two-week trauma team that's based on talk.

I hope he follows through.  These wounds will be with us for a very long time. And Community is necessary for more than just dancing.

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