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Today There Were More Tears

By Diane De La Santos
July 8, 2016

We gathered as a staff to pray this afternoon – not an unusual thing, we do it all the time. But today was different. For one, there were more tears. So much so that a teenager from our Youth Employment Program got up from his spot in the circle to pass a Kleenex box to several adults in the room.

Some, I suppose, were crying for our nation; others for the families of slain officers, or out of fear for their sons’ lives or our student’s lives; and others in sorrow that they hadn’t cared more, prayed harder, or spoken up sooner.

The tragedies in Dallas, Minneapolis and Baton Rouge in the last three days, and in Milwaukee and across our nation over the last three years, have been replaying over and over in my mind today. I scanned the media looking for voices of reason and compassion amidst the anger and pain. As I listened to various thought leaders, this is what I heard:

 “When it comes to grief, we don’t have to choose a side; we can grieve both. These are deaths that could have been avoided; these lives that didn’t have to be lost are not mutually exclusive. No matter how it feels, this isn’t Black Lives Matter vs. cops. This isn’t white vs. black. This isn’t even us vs. them. The score is not even. We are all losing.”

Stephen A. Crockett Jr., a senior editor at The Root, a news site providing commentary from a variety of African America perspectives

 “We must be careful about hasty conclusions and faulty connections…. or a willfully, recklessly selective interpretation of events…. Police and protesters have a shared desire: that no sweeping, damning judgments be made about a whole class of people; that such prejudice be resisted; that such cynicism be renounced.”

Frank Bruni, Op Ed writer for the New York Times

 “The racial dynamics within our country are a huge mess for a thousand reasons… oppression of indigenous peoples, ‘manifest destiny’, slavery, Jim Crow laws, America’s rugged individualism, historical socio-economic disparities, we’re a nation of immigrants, cultural differences, power dynamics, color blindness, incarceration disparities, white privilege, current events, on and on. Trying to understand the impact of any one of these topics is a challenge. And, unraveling how they interrelate seems impossible. But we all must fight the tendency to throw up our hands and say, ‘It’s beyond me!’”

Chad Brennan, co-founder of ReNew Partnerships, a Christian training organization focused on racial reconciliation

 “The gospel of Christ is a gospel of reconciliation, not retaliation. In the Beatitudes, Jesus proclaimed that peacemakers will be blessed. Loving peace and making peace are not the same. Making peace requires action.” 

Dr. George Wood, leader of the Assemblies of God, July 8, 2016

“First and foremost, black lives matter…. We must find points of cooperation across racial lines … we can take steps in that direction by affirming the value of black lives and by praying for unity in our churches and our society.”

Dr. Wood on December 14, 2014 regarding his observance of Black Lives Matter Sunday

As the leader of City on a Hill, I cannot help but view these tragedies through the lens of our daily work with young people in Milwaukee’s central city, as they struggle to overcome powerful obstacles arrayed against them, and strive to break the generational cycles that trap them in poverty.

Peace and justice go hand in hand. And so our work also includes providing practical training on eradicating poverty and injustice. 

Whether we’re helping youth to overcome the obstacles and break the cycle, or offering 40-hour poverty simulations, or teaching workshops on racial issues at the Nonprofit Center, we know the prevention and advocacy work we do is part of the solution to the escalating violence in our nation. Seeing the outcomes of that work gives us hope. Yet there’s so much more that needs to be done.

Today was different for our staff – men and women; young and old; black, white, Asian and Hispanic. For one, there were more tears, as we felt each other’s pain. And for another, there were more hugs, as we reached out to give each other strength.