Content warning: mentions of attack in Charlottesville
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” Micah 4:4
McGuffey Park in Charlottesville, VA
When I think of Charlottesville, the terrorist attack I was mere inches from obviously comes to mind.
But I also think about chanting and standing in solidarity with my black and brown friends as the white supremacists trudged down the street, remnants of pepper spray dripping in purple streaks down their once pristine white polo shirts. I think about the red-clad Antifa marching up behind us in a sea of red shirts and black and pink helmets, and the relief I felt when our group cheered them in, finally understanding what everyone meant when they told me “Antifa will keep us safe.” I recall the clergy arriving and linking arms to form a human blockade to stop the “parade” in their attemp to perform a very physical and literal exorcism of the streets.
And I think about going back to McGuffy Park after seeing the last of the “alt-right” leave. I reminisce on the time spent lounging under shady trees, sharing fruit snacks with my new BLM friends, trading stories about theater rehearsals and loved ones, meeting fellow activists, enjoying the sweet summer breezes and laughing at the Charlottesville citizens walking their dogs and going on jogs as if their city leaders hadn’t declared a State of Emergency.
And it made sense, because at the time, it really didn’t feel like a dire situation.
For a glorious half hour, it felt like a normal summer day.
It was a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
It was pure joy, bliss, and contentment. It was safety.
It was resting on the ground beneath us and actually believing it might be level for everyone. It was vulnerability without fear of destruction. It was trust and love.
It was holy, holy, holy.
After that blissful half hour, we began marching on the Downtown Mall after hearing reports from fellow activists of renewed Nazi activity at another location. Even though we knew we were walking into more threats, the rush from our earlier victory over the neo-Nazis coursed through our veins, giving us hope that we could keep them at bay again.
When we marched those streets, we did so in victory. We did so in joy.
When I think of Charlottesville, I still remember the joy. Oh, how I cling fiercely to that memory of joy.
I do not remember the joy in spite of the moment of terror that snatched it all away. I don’t remember those sweet moments to escape the reality of the pain, terror, and trauma from which my friends, fellow protesters, and I continue to recover.
I remember the joy because of the terror and the turmoil.
I cling to those joy-filled memories in a desperate effort to reclaim them from the terror that plagued that whole day and culminated in a terrorist attack by a white supremacist.
I keep that flicker of joy we had at the park safe and alive with all my might as a middle finger to those terrorists who would seek to destroy black and brown bodies, and those bodies that stand with them.
I remember the joy as a way to say to white terrorism and white supremacy, “Fuck y’all. You won’t win. Not this day, not this movement, not these lives.”
It’s this “Fuck y’all” joy that makes us laugh at insults like “race traitor” and whimpers about “Jewish privilege” and “reverse racism.”
It’s this “Fuck y’all” joy that got us back on our feet to march to our people in need.
It’s this “Fuck y’all” joy that gives me the audacity to plan a wedding in the midst of this chaos and hatred.
It’s this “Fuck y’all” joy that is keeping me going today.
I pray it’ll last.