”I can’t remember a time that I’ve been heartbroken twice in a week by news of people that I didn’t know personally.
Heartbroken is too soft of a word. Devastated is closer. Enraged is another. The only type of pain that I’ve known once in my life; the type that I could only express as the most guttural scream that I could muster as I miscarried my child.
And yet, I’ve now screamed like that twice in the past five days. Once with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Twice this morning as we learned that no one is criminally charged in the death of Breonna Taylor who was murdered by three officers of the Louisville, KY police department. (One officer was charged for three counts of wanton endangerment, but not in actually killing Breonna as she slept.)
Both of those moments illuminated one very big truth: it is possible to hold multiple emotions at one time. As news broke of the Notorious RGB’s death, I felt profound sadness at the loss of an icon and the dread that so many of the truths that me and many other American citizens hold dear are going to be taken away. When the grand jury announcement came through in Breonna’s case, the devastation and rage, combined with the fact that I wasn’t surprised. Throughout history, those in power will bend laws and rules to maintain that hold over others, leaving Black communities coming up short. In this case, the power that the police department wants to keep at the expense of justice and the Black community.
If this year and our current national climate have taught us anything, it’s that we have a lot of work to do.
It’s hard to heal when the hits just keep coming. It’s difficult to see a better world with justice and empathy when everything looks bleak. I’ve canceled my meetings this afternoon so I can rest and process, and I’m wanting to do anything I can to hold space for anyone I know to grieve and process what is going on.
Let’s be honest: I’m sitting in a dimly-lit corner of my house with a blanket hiding because the world feels like such a scary place at the moment. Even my dog is snuggling close because he knows I’m not ok. That’s my form of coping and self-care, and I’m rolling with it.
In all of this, I still feel hope.
I’m encouraged most by an unspoken call to come together for community and healing that’s taking a new shape as we can’t gather together in person. It’s happening on Instagram.
On Friday, I opened my Instagram to a notification that Sophia Bush and Mandana Dayani, activist and co-founder of I Am A Voter, started a live broadcast. I rarely ever watch Instagram Lives; the platform doesn’t make it easy to multitask and, let’s face it, my phone never has enough battery to make it through a full 10 minute video. I clicked on the icon and settled into my chair for a few minutes, and was relieved to see two women who were trying to get over the shock of the news, just like me. They talked about RGB’s legacy, the complexity of the emotions they’re feeling about this news, and the uncertainty of what is next for the Supreme Court at such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Even though I still felt blindsided by the loss, I felt less alone in my grief.
The same was true today as I heard the news out of Louisville. I instinctively opened Instagram and didn’t see anyone talking about it on their feeds or in Stories, but I did notice Brittany Packnett Cunningham was Live. As I tuned in, I saw her eyes well up with tears as she talked about canceling her meetings and giving all of us the space to process the news. This strong, selfless moment of turning on the camera and sharing her thoughts gave way for thousands of others to grieve, be inspired, find hope, and be still. Justice wasn’t served. Breonna Taylor name, experience and likeness was used over and over again to highlight the injustice, and the injustice still continued. It is baffling and continues to erode the trust that our nation will uphold our basic truths, even when it’s inconvenient.
It is a brave and courageous act to be so vulnerable, emotional and true in front of thousands of people, especially when you’re hurting.
Those are the moments that cement us together, help us heal, understand our own humanity, and ignite a fire to keep fighting for change. The light will shine in the darkness, even though it feels like wave after wave of grief keeps washing us out to sea.
Healing requires the nuances of feeling all of the emotions, even if they’re contradictory. True healing also is dependent on community.
Speaking about moving forward, Brittany said that “it is going to take enough courage and radical imagination to free ourselves.” I’m committed to collaboratively pursuing justice, freedom and equality for all – especially Black men and women. But right now, I need to rest a little more and hold private space for those who trust me to embrace them in the complex emotions that this moment requires.
If you’re able and interested, donate to the Louisville Community Bail fund.