Protesting during COVID

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Generally, attending a protest is not a hard decision for me—find your walking shoes, grab a sign and go.  Yet COVID has made this a wrenching decision—how do you isolate yourself to stop the spread of one disease and step out to stop the ravages of racism and hate.

After 12 weeks of self-imposed quarantine, the protests compelled me to step out.  As I weighed the risks, I saw the risk of very few people showing up as greater than the risk of my getting infected.  And while I know that protests do not change the world overnight, silence kills.

Each one of us must judge our tolerance for risk, this time the risk of remaining silent was greater than the risk of becoming ill.

And so, the weekend began.  Friday was the car caravan organized by the MEA.  It was a powerful ride around Montclair—with hundreds of other cars—with signs in the car that said Black Lives Matter.  It was a low risk activity—David and I were socially distant from everyone else.  And yet we felt so connected with lights flashing and horns blaring.  It rained hard which meant that the streets had fewer onlookers.  Yet the rain felt right…the heavens crying for the pain in our country.

On Saturday I repurposed my signs and decided to join the March from Nishuane Park down Bloomfield Ave. This march was a solo activity—I walked alone on the edge of the marchers.  It was truly being alone in a crowd.  When we arrived at the police station on Bloomfield Ave, however, I experienced a moment of intense oneness with the community.  We heard…take a knee…and a 1000 people knelt on the ground.  Followed by…stand up…and everyone rose as one, as if emerging from the earth, and raised their fists for 46 seconds of silence.  As we stood together, arms raised, I really believed we could lift the world.

On Sunday we found different level of connection.  David and I went to a prayer vigil in the park and listened to the deep pain of members of our Black community.  I let the sadness flow over me as I experienced what it means to bear witness to pain and sorrow.  And we were lifted by the calls to action…the message was clear—God’s love needs human intervention for us to have justice and peace in our lifetime.

And now the hard work begins.  How do we do work on ourselves; what should we read; with whom do we have the crucial conversations that help us reach deeper and find our better selves?  Our work must also include political action…every election counts, and every vote must be counted.  May this weekend of protests in Montclair be a step in the journey of building a safer and more peaceful future for us and our Black brethren.

 

image: photo courtesy of Sarita Eisenberg

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Shirley Grill

Shirley Grill

Shirley is a Partner, leadership coach and consultant focusing on individual and leadership team development at Exetor Group. At Shomrei she's been a congregant and leader for many years. A past President and head of the JLC, she's currently co-charing Shomrei's IHN efforts in housing homeless families. She remains involved "ex-officio" in the strategic planning of the Preschool and JLC.
Shirley Grill

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