I woke up last Tuesday morning in Ozark, Missouri, about a four-hour drive from Ferguson. The night before, I watched the devastating news of the rioting and burning in Ferguson just after the news of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, 18.
The images of burning buildings and cars brought back not-so-fond memories of the pain and suffering brought on by the unjustified killing of Arthur McDuffie and the riots in 1980 that followed.
As I write this column, I am still in Missouri, where I celebrated a day of Thanksgiving with my grandson Asher and family. And I think: I wonder what prayers of thanksgiving did Brown’s family say? Did they even think there was a reason to give thanks?
Did Brown’s family hold hands around a table piled high with festive foods and thank God for the 18 years they had with him? Did they laugh when they thanked God for the many hours of laughter he brought them? Did they say thanks for the tears, also? Because as a mom who reared two sons, I can truly say that I shed a lot of tears — some for joy and some for sorrow as my sons were growing up. It’s all a part of being a parent.
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I thought about Brown’s family, even as I enjoyed my own family at this festive time. A little over a year ago, I lost my older son Rick. And at Thanksgiving time, the pain was still all too fresh. Still, I could be thankful for his life — I’d had the opportunity to be his mom for 55 years at the time of his death from a heart attack. Brown’s mom had only 18 years with her son. And she has the pain of having to always remember that her son died at the hands of another person — a law enforcement officer.
So what would I tell Brown’s mom if I could speak to her face to face? I don’t really know. I could say, “I know how you feel.”
But, then, I really don’t know how she feels. Our sons died under different circumstances. If we had the chance to meet, I would just hug her and let her cry in my arms. Then I would tell her to ask God to help her be able to forgive the person who killed her son. I would tell her that being able to forgive is the only way to heal.
Then, my thoughts moved on to Wilson, the officer who fired the fatal shot. What prayers of Thanksgiving did he say?
In a few months, Wilson, himself, will be a parent — he and his wife are expecting their first child. And as a parent, he will have a different perspective on life. As his child grows, will he look back on these days and say, “I wish I had acted differently.” Or, will he still say, “I know I did my job right.”
I don’t even know if Wilson is a praying man. But I believe he is a thinking man. And now, he will know the joys and sorrows of bringing up a child in a world where violence seems to be a normal part of life.
And if he isn’t a praying man, just the thought of that is enough to bring him to his knees.
Can We Talk? panel discussion
The Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews (MCCJ) will sponsor the second annual “Can We Talk?” panel discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Wolfson Auditorium of Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 150 SE Second Ave., Suite 914.
According to information from the organization, the event is an opportunity for “frank discussion of the challenges our community faces in being truly inclusive of our diverse population.”
Panelists include Maria Figueroa Byrd, president, Junior League of Miami; retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Amy N. Dean, campaign chair, Greater Miami Jewish Federation; Dr. Marvin Dunn, author and historian; Eric Knowles, president and CEO of Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; Shabbir Motorwala, Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations; Rep. Jose R. Oliva; and Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College.
David Lawrence Jr., retired Miami Herald publisher and president of The Early Childhood Initiative /Foundation and Education and Community Leadership Scholar at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, will be the moderator.
The event is free and open to the community but reservations are required. To RSVP, call 305-755-6096, ext. 10. Or, email your name and organization to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A reception will follow the presentation.
New Neighbors Club luncheon
To kick off the holiday season, the New Neighbors Club of South Dade will present Mindy McGee as the featured artist at the Dec. 10 luncheon meeting.
McGee grew up in show business as the daughter of comedienne Jeannie Reynolds, and has performed for audiences from the Catskills of New York to Atlantic City, and from the Pocono Mountain resorts to South Florida.
The club meets at the Killian Palms Country Club, 9950 SW 104th St. Doors open at 11 a.m. and the luncheon and program start at 11:30 a.m. The cost of lunch is $26 per person, and reservations must be made by 6 p.m. Thursday. To RSVP, call 305-595-0213 or send an email to: email@example.com.
Family Christian Association in Fort Lauderdale
The Family Christian Association of America will celebrate 30 years of “Faith, Family and Community Service” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port Hotel.
The program will feature the entertainment of The Old Skool Gang. For ticket information and sponsorship opportunities, call Rosalyn Alls at 305-685-4881, ext. 217.
Booker T. Washington High fundraiser
The Booker T. Washington High School Class of 1965 will have its annual Soul Food Christmas scholarship fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the home of Barbara Brown Graham, 2501 NW 47th St. Donation: $25 per person.
Also, BTW’s Class of 1968 needs your help in collecting blankets and socks for the homeless. If you can donate, contact Marsha Marks Scott at 305-633-3461 or 305-778-9860.
The class will be distributing blankets and socks on Saturday to the homeless in the Miami-Dade area.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.