A nation sleeping through its racism is wakened by the brutal killing of nine black parishioners in a historic Charleston church. A week later elation, as marriage equality crosses the finish line, is shadowed by the glaring reality that equality is hardly in hand. On June 26, 2015, the day of the SCOTUS marriage ruling and the day of Reverend Senator Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, I asked people on Facebook to share post their feelings and stories, to stand here together and be heard in the hurt and happiness. These are a few of their responses. –Pema Rocker
I didn’t have a lot of words and so I painted this…it’s called Holy Ground. The figures represent the nine who were killed in Charleston, there is one lighter figure to represent one of the survivors and the little girl who survived. –Stephanie Gagos, Nyack, NY (Stephanie’s painting is the one pictured, above.)
I am full of joy and sorrow. –Monique Fortenberry, Washington DC
We have family that was shot in the back by police, my husband has been pulled out of the car and put on the ground for no reason, we had a death row cousin who was put to death. So much pain in the black community and here I am for the last 35 years trying to shift the white community starting with my own self, my parents, co-workers etc. Being a social worker for a career I’ve seen a lot. We cried when Obama got elected. Cried when our gay family members can marry legally. Sometimes I’m so ready for us to just be over it. But yes, it’s shifting. –Kathy Price, Tacoma, Washington
In the No on 22 campaign in 1999-2000, I marched and phone banked and walked precincts with my friends & allies, vowing that I would live to see marriage equality upheld.
In a candlelight vigil held after Prop 22 passed in 2000, I held hands with my partner and vowed I would continue to fight.
In a celebration rally after Prop 22 was overturned in 2008, I held my five-year-old on my shoulders and vowed publicly to the crowd that I wanted my child to grow up not having to understand why some people could get married and others could not.
In countless “No on 8” marches, I held hands with my daughter as we carried signs she made in crayon vowing to stand on the side of love.
In all these years of half victories and compromises and dashed hopes and solidarity, I am humbled and proud and elated to say that those vows I made, you made, we all made together, vowing to let freedom ring a little more loudly and broadly than ever before…those vows have been fulfilled and I am so proud of all of us.
This is a celebration of the highest order! Love wins.
But do not get comfortable, we have much more work to do.
The common theme I’m seeing today is people posting about their tear-filled reaction to both the SCOTUS ruling and President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney. These two events are inexorably linked as civil rights issues. I feel the outpouring of tears from around the world soothing, washing, smoothing, bathing all of our collective pain around inequality. Tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of pent up pain. The flowing of these tears is making just all those many, many injustices.
This feeling may not last, the pain has been riven deep by time and will take time itself to heal. Just like how when we cry, we don’t cry forever, but only long enough to wash out the debris in our eye, or the pain in our heart for a moment — in the same way, this peace which comes from a good cry will only last temporarily for our nation, until we get up from our tears and realize there is still, there is always, more work to be done.
The peace brought by today’s tears is the definition of the benevolent grace that President Obama spoke of in Reverend Pinckney’s eulogy. I feel grateful and grace-filled to be able to stand in the stream of our collective tears today and witness history unfold around us. –Laura Smith, Santa Barbara, California
Painting by Stephanie Gagos