Sometime, on Sunday night, our church's Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized. The same sign that had spoken such hope into our lives when it was stolen in hate and returned in love, in solidarity with both Black Lives and our Police. Someone saw that beauty, and decided to stomp on it.
They cut out the Black from All Lives Matter. Which has been the problem all along. All lives do matter; the problem is we're not acting like it; the problem is that the lives of some people---whether Black, or immigrant, or LGBTQ, or woman, or poor, or disabled, or abused---are not allowed to matter equally.
A banner is just fabric, but behind that fabric stand the lives of Black and Brown people and their allies who are hurting. Behind that fabric are all the parents who are afraid every morning to send their child out into a world that hates, and might kill, their child.
On Monday, that child had to ride their bike past a sign, where their identity, the very value of their life, had been erased. Consider that. A gaping hole that says: You don't belong; you don't matter; you are invisible. I wish I could say it was just one bad person. But the truth is that racism is very alive in Harriet Tubman's hometown. We like to think we are better than this; we are not. While a uniformed police officer and I stood outside the church talking on Monday, people drove by and smirked. One woman slowed down and shouted, "They fixed that sign!" brazenly applauding an act of vandalism and hate.
While we may not be better than this, as Abraham Lincoln once said, our angels are. "The better angels of our nature" have been singing loud and clear. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. People have donated enough money to put up 10 signs or more! Artists have volunteered to make signs. People, formerly on the sidelines of this movement, are speaking out and getting to work. Phone calls poured in from community members and the press. Auburn's Police have once again been amazing. This time it was Officer Guzalak who answered the call; you might remember her from the national photo of a Black Lives Matter demonstration, where she and her fellow officers took a knee in solidarity with George Floyd. Once again, this officer and I had a powerful, loving, joyful conversation about working together to end racial injustice and to become a people who honor the humanity in one another, including hers as a police officer.
That morning, I crafted a somewhat crude poster that says in big bold letters "BLACK". I duct taped it to the sign, restoring the message. The scars are still there, a visible reminder of violence and division. But Black is Back, a message that we will not be silenced, Black lives will not be erased, Black children do belong. As I made the sign, I felt an odd import come over me---like it wasn't just a sign I was repairing, like I held in my hands precious life, that child riding his bike.
Now there is talk of placing signs all over our community. To all the haters out there, hear us: For every sign you destroy, ten more will rise in its place.
We will not be deterred. Your hate only feeds our love. Your hate only makes us stronger, louder. You have shown who you truly are; we see you. We see that when you said "All Lives Matter," you lied, because you just literally cut out Black Lives. And without Black Lives there are no All Lives.
Why will we not be deterred? Because we serve a God who takes what you mean for evil and uses it for good. We follow a brown-skinned Savior who took your cross, your hate, your violence, and turned it into Easter resurrection. Like Jesus, we rise! We rise! We rise! Just try to hold us down.