I was working on my computer late on the evening of June 11th. I was in Phoenix, AZ, one of the cities on our schedule with The Red Flame for Freedom Movement to End Modern Day Slavery. I was looking for connections in different cities to grassroots groups that we could connect with regarding human trafficking, children in poverty and mass incarceration, when a popup appeared on my computer indicating that there was a mass shooting in progress at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
“By morning, I felt I must do something – but what?”
I was already sensitive to issues of violence, oppression and injustice due to the grassroots work I have been steeped in for nearly a year. I received the news with such deep heart break that I was literally shaken to my core. I could hardly breath in the enormity of the reports popping up on my computer and on my phone. By morning, I felt I must do something – but what?
I think that is a question that remains for many of us during these days immediately following, when families, friends and even a nation are attempting to “wake up” from an act of violence that will never really be explained. Sure we will come to know the facts, but for many, especially the family and friends of those who lost their lives and those who have been injured and traumatized, we will all live with more questions than answers.
“I realize that I must connect with the greatest love that is in me – that IS me…”
What must I do, now? Is the question I am asking myself over and over again. As I allow the answers to flow, I realize that I must connect with the greatest love that is in me – that IS me – to give voice to an even greater love that can reach around the world and into the hearts of all those directly and indirectly impacted by the murder of 49 innocent people out for a night of fun, dancing and celebration of life. They were you and me. They were our children and our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our husbands and wives, our partners, our mothers and fathers…
They are now elevated to the ones who gave of theirs lives to offer us – those left behind – a renewed opportunity to reclaim our humanity. Their living smiles challenge us with the questions, “Who are you?” “Where is your Humanity?” “Where is your love?” Their bullet torn bodies are the visual images of the price of violence, oppression, injustice, bigotry, prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
“We must embrace each other across all of the differences we identify in each other to see our humanity, to bear witness to the Divine in each of us.”
What must WE do now? We must embrace each other across all of the differences we identify in each other to see our humanity, to bear witness to the Divine in each of us. We must build bridges that will enable us to cross these divides whether they are perpetrated by our religious and spiritual teachings; by cultural values; by historical hate and prejudices based on fear and fortified with lies; by any untruth that makes any group better than another – or less than; by the silence of those fearful that speaking out will end their privilege or the silence by those fearful that speaking out will end their lives. We must “forgive the unforgivable” to discover the fragile underpinnings of hatred and fear so we can take the higher road to peace building and justice making for ALL.
On June 12, 2016 a score of angels got their wings and our hearts were shattered. As we pick up the pieces, let us use love as the glue that will bind us — to be better, to do better because this will forever be a day that offered us the opportunity to reinstate our humanity and to reaffirm a new beginning for ALL.
Ms. Audri Scott Williams is a peace walker, author and documentarian of West African, Cherokee and Seminole ancestry and resides in Cottonwood, Alabama. She is the co-convener and Interim Coordinator for the URI Global Indigenous Initiative and a Global Trustee. She is a member of several CCs including the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk CC & NOWTIME Radio CC.