Keep in mind this is only the Second draft not the final piece. I like to post my drafts so that young writers, like myself, can see the progression of writing. Some of it sounds redundant but that’s bc I plan on editing parts out and don’t want to retype or edit out some of the details. I still think the wording/flow of the first & second paragraph are a bit off. Feel free to make suggestions. If you’ve complaints about typos…The first draft is much worse but luckily the only people who have access to that is The Boycott Times (Boycottx.org). Title ideas: “It’s About Us” “Power of Presence”
Thursday Nov 18th 2021. 701 H St. Brunswick GA
“This is the power of presence.” 300+ Black ministers, reverends, pastors, imams, priests, healers, and spiritual leaders from many faiths, denominations, and nations were present in Brunswick GA in the second week of Ahmaud Arbery’s Murders’ Trial. Hundreds more of community leaders, lawyers, journalists, singers, storytellers, veterans, democrats, republicans. All together around 700 people were present. People held hand-fans that read: “It’s about us”, signs were held that read “I run with Ahmaud.” and “No justice No peace”. Amongst the people it was heard from one pastor, ‘This is not political. This isn’t about time on the mic. I came here to touch this [situation with prayer].’ Even the Sheriffs’ presence is peaceful. No one here is trying to disturb the peace, the peace was disturbed by the McMichaels. The people gathered as a sign of the restoration of peace.
“Feels like we’re in church.” Attorney Benjamin Crump took the mic to speak after Attorney Lee Merritt spoke, reminding us that God is the final arbiter of Justice. Addressing the crowd of 700 people, brought together in a prayer Vigil with Ahmaud Arbery’s Family, Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant prayed with the community with words of gratitude to the people and the town of Brunswick for welcoming so many peacemakers into their hearts. Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke on several of the days. MLK III spoke, giving gratitude to the Ahmaud’s Family for inviting Black spiritual leaders to pray with them. Rev Al Sharpton stepped to the mic again reminding us that we are here to uplift and pray with the Arbery family.
We gathered in Brunswick Georgia not to protest, not to disrupt, not to escalate but to be living proof of what it looks like to de-escalate. We gathered to prove what community looks like when we are focused on the same objectives and goals. Our objectives and goals are centered around peace and justice. We gathered to be living proof that even when justice in the court is uncertain, justice is certain wherever God is present. Rev. Sharpton reminds us “God is everywhere.” If supremacists like McMichaels and Rittenhouse will not let us live in peace then there is no justice. Rev. Sharpton reminds us that the Arbery Family are sitting in the courtroom across from the men who murdered their son while the medical examiner goes thru the gruesome evidence of his brutal murder. His family is sitting there while the disturbing photos are reviewed in detail of his young body on the examiner’s table, his once white shirt soaked red with his own blood. When Ahmaud’s shoes are brought out in court we are all reminded of the cadence he walked and ran with. As the lawyers and witnesses replay and review the video taken of his murder still by still we are reminded that while striding toward his future Ahmaud’s life was halted at the mere age of 25. Despite two fatal shotgun wounds, and one missed shot, Ahmaud still fought for his life with the adrenaline God gave him to try and survive despite the hate given to him.
The Arbery family have called for spiritual presence and leadership to uplift them in their time here and their call was answered by the people. During the prayer vigil we chanted, a sacred form of speech. Led by Attorney B. Crump, we chanted “Whatever the lawyers say, we going to pray anyway. Whatever the lawyers say, we going to pray anyway.” The presence of 700 leaders is not meant to influence the jury, it is meant to put pressure on the overarching question of what is justice justice? We brought peace peace, now we will see if justice follows. 300+ clergy have brought peace, now where is justice? 700 people gathered together to pray and evoke peace into this space, where is justice? Innumerable people who weren’t able to be physically in Brunswick sent their prayers, their meditations, their vibrations to Brunswick. We, the people of this vast nation of nations, are Peace, só where is Justice?
During this powerful day MLK III lent his loving and powerful voice to evoke the words of his father, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s Murderers is an important legal case for anyone—runner, biker, walker, parents, any person—who has been intimidated or followed by a car or a truck. This trial is important for everyone who has experienced a hate crime. This is important for victims of gun violence. This trial is important to anyone who has been disappeared. This trial is leading an important national conversation about common decency vs supremacist action. This trial is about us.
Ahmaud’s family, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Marcus and Jasmine Arbery, also spoke on Thursday about the beauty, the joy, and the power of the presence of faith here at the courthouse. Their words remind us that humanity is meant to break bread with one another, not break each other’s hearts. Following Wanda’s lead, “Could you please say his name” we chanted “Ahmaud Arbery” “Ahmaud Arbery” “Ahmaud Arbery”
Following the words of Rev. Jesse Jackson, We chanted
“I am somebody.
I am Somebody.
Never neglect me
I’m God’s child”
“I am somebody.
I am Somebody.
Never neglect me
Stop the violence
Save the children
Stop the violence
Save the children.”
The men and the women speaking, organizing, and gathered before this family generates a powerful presence that adds love to this town. The powerful love here will last as long as the Lover’s Oak which has stood as long as our Constitution, an ever growing document meant to ensure the protection of all people.
Next week, the week of thanksgiving, the prayer vigil continues while the court proceeds with the closing statements on Monday. If you aren’t present in body, be present in spirit. Prayers, meditations, well-wishes, and vibrations are stronger than the distances between us. If your spirit was at the peaceful march on Thursday you were present. If your spirit is present in Brunswick this thanksgiving week, your presence is felt; Dayenu.
“I love you”, Rise with Peace,
Links to resources:
Obituary of Ahmaud Arbery https://www.cbjohnsonreidfs.com/obituary/Ahmaud-Arbery
Black News Channel. Nov. 17-19. https://bnc.tv/bnc-live/ :.
Jesse Jackson Showcases Support For Arbery Family, Despite Pleas
-Judge in Ahmaud Arbery Case Denies Mistrial Request from Defense
-Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother ‘Anxious’ to hear Defense Argument
-Black Pastors Gather for Prayer Vigil for Ahmaud Arbery’s Family
Black Pastors Gather Outside Glynn County Courthouse | LIVE Streamed live on Nov 18, 202 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkum2TjKVvs (especially 2:02:00)
Jamal Bryant, other pastors gather outside courthouse in Brunswick to pray for Arbery family Nov 18, 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxueSzOVeTI
Ahmaud Arbery’s mom tells crowd outside of courthouse to ‘say his name Nov 18, 2021 (https://youtu.be/tr3dmTHxFvQ)
Off the record
Nov Tues Nov 16th. In the overflow room for 2nd floor courtroom 3.
The room is filled with pews facing TVs live streaming the trial happening in the adjacent room of about the same size. The pews are mostly filled with local leaders and on Thursday leaders who traveled to attend the vigil. Behind the Pews, in the back of the room there are several small circular tables mostly occupied by journalists.
Watching the trial from inside this room, sitting with my notebook drawing pictures of these days, has made me feel more sane then trying to watch this alone in my home. To sit with leaders who know far too well how cases like this have gone thru the courts is a powerful experience. I think watching this trial in community is healthier then watching alone. Being nearly middle aged I know a little about the history of this nation and am not naive nor jaded towards it. The racial divisions and lines of discrimination and yet to be present here I’ve a better understanding. I know that some of the coverage of this trial isn’t just sensationalized journalism, the coverage isn’t trying to create a wider rift, it is meant to expose the wounds of this nation so that we be honest about the wound and can find ways to heal. Being together reminds me that deep down the gathering of leaders here is not about the hate shown by McMichaels, this vigil is about the love shown by the Arbery’s.
Tues or Wednesday, nov 16/17. Overflow room.
Sitting in the back of the room I watch as Jesse Jackson enters and sits down in one of the last rows. He’s there waiting for the deputies to say it’s time to enter the courtroom and hopefully offering a prayer of patience to those of us sitting here and outside. Over the next few days whenever we see his face appear on the cameras in the courtroom, sitting behind the Arbery family a wave of peace is felt in the overflow. His peaceful presence there reminds us we too can be peacefully present. It is difficult to be peaceful while Travis McMichaels lies on camera, it is difficult to be peaceful while their lawyers pull all sorts of punches defending their despicable actions, it is difficult to be peaceful when they show Ahmaud’s death still by still in the video the McMichaels took like a hunting trophy. It is difficult to be peaceful and yet in the presence of so many spiritual leaders it is made possible and it is made easier.
Thursday of 18th. overflow room.
Earlier that day I watch from the second floor as Rev Al Sharpton enters the building. Moments later he enters the 2nd floor atrium with his colleagues. All Towards the end of an emotional day of an emotional week, Benjamin Crump and his colleague sit at a reserved table directly in front of me. They sit where, hours earlier, BLM leaders sat. They only sat there for moments and yet their presence remained felt in those spaces after they left. Many people were present who’s names I’m unsure of but who’s power is felt, including hundreds of powerful women.
It’s impossible not to feel humility. It’s impossible not to feel HONOR. There is a deep feeling present of the slow steady task of history being made. If a photographer like Atlanta’s Nafisa Valita Shariff were present she’d take a portraits that could better encapsulate the power of the presences in that moment better then I can explain with words.
Fri Nov 19th. Overflow room
The moon is full and has been eclipsed. The prayer vigil is continued in peoples homes while the courthouse lawn is mostly empty compared to yesterday. The overflow room still contains leaders who have been diligently present from the beginning of the trial. Today the jury and witnesses are not here it’s just the legal teams and judge going over the details of wording in the tendered evidence. Before the lunch break the McMichaels representative once again files for a mis-trail saying the ‘mob’ outside is going to influence the jury. The judge calmly states that once again the complaint is on the record.
From the tendered evidence
People in the courtroom have placed importance on the blue mailbox. People outside the courtroom have placed importance on the way that Ahmaud fell—when he was shot his body’s adrenaline evokes a flight or fight response so that even though he was bleeding out he tried to fight his aggressors. The second shot to the armpit struck erb’s palsy nerve that nearly disconnected his left arm down the his side and he fell without being able to catch himself. (BNC. Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother ‘Anxious’ to hear Defense Argument.) The coroner stated that Ahmaud bled so quickly he was dead before he even hit the ground. I think people are emphasizing the positioning of his arm as a notation that his murderers continually removed any ability for Ahmaud to defend himself. That image along with his white shirt being completely soaked in blood in the photos is a strong evidence of the brutality of his murder. Many commenters on the court livestream have mentioned the importance of the medical examiner’s testimony.
I think they are trying to create a symbol or a metaphor out of the mailbox but I’m not certain of what. From an art-activist perspective, One suggestion i can make is an art piece called “Letters to Ahmaud”. The art piece could consist of a blue mailbox where people can “send”/place prayers and letters in the mailbox until they can’t fit and rest nearby. As People add their letters and prayers the space increases in size. The objective of this piece is to providing therapeutic art space to express grief and love in whatever community needs that space.
The State lawyers representing Arbery’s family in the trial tried to tender “Ahmaud’s Shoes” as evidence but they weren’t able to and so that evidence will not be included in the jury’s decision. The presence of many people in the overflow room and outside wearing running shoes I think is evidence of the importance of his shoes even if they aren’t considered evidence in the courtroom.
I think his shoes are a strong metaphor for “walking in someone else’s shoes” to me, as a runner, “Ahmaud’s Shoes” represent his cadence, his stride, and they link into other human rights atrocities where people were brutally murdered by supremacists leaving piles of shoes behind them like in the Holocaust museum. I’m trying to remember the other memorial I saw with shoes from murdered people where shoes of everyone who was killed were set on the lawn as a demonstration of the loss of life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCE6T1bdAiM
Notes before next week
With no intention of romanizing cigarettes I want to draw out the act of lighting one cigarette with another. When I first began practicing and studying Buddhism I was told a story trying to explain the understanding of how a soul moves to be reinacarnated. I was told that the spirit, the soul, of a being is like a candle, when the body of a being reaches the end of its life cycle the soul moves like a flame of one candle to the wick of another candle. To me this is similar to how the energy moves from one cigarette to light the next. the previous cigarette goes out, the heat from that light is not extinguished it continues on in the life of the next cigarette. With the heat that already existed from the civil rights movement in the 60s, some of their generation present in Brunswick, their energy is guided and passed to the younger generations also gathered here. The energy of this movement moves us to be present in body or in spirit and it is an energy we will maintain. We are not just the smoke we are also the heat of the flame.