Man Caught After Two Slain
— on most mornings,
this headline would have just received a glance from me. I, like I assume many
others, have begun to see it as a normal day in the big city.
But this time
was different for me. I became a news junkie. I listened and read everything
that was written about the violent actions of the gunman who left Vickie Jones
and Maurice Stallard dead — dead just because they were black.
Vickie were going about the normal events of a normal day, stopping at the
neighborhood Kroger — a thing we all do; but they were black. I believe that Maurice
symbolized all the black males that the gunman hates.
Sisters of Peace congregational study of racism and gun violence became real
for me on October 24. – the day that Vickie and Maurice, both grandparents,
were gunned down (Maurice, right in front of his 12-year-old grandson).
But why this
and death held significance for me because I knew Maurice and his wife,
Charlotte. This was not just the death of another black male; it was the
killing of a black male that I knew. A man that I celebrated Eucharist with in
our common parish; a man I spoke to often and saw even more frequently, as he
served the parish in many roles. This killing killed a relationship and it
mattered to me.
Being a part of
the activities that honored Vickie and Maurice mattered to me; I needed to
participate. I attended the vigil held in the Kroger parking lot. I did not
anticipate the fear arising in me as I stood in the open space. Fear that
became palpable as I watched the armed police officer on the rooftop and
wondered if there could be more violence?
I found comfort
as I observed the mingling of blacks, browns, whites — why does it take a
killing to bring us together?
And there was
disbelief as I went into the store finding myself in aisle 37, not because I
needed to visit the scene of Maurice’s death but because I was picking up cat
food, which happened to be in the next aisle. The disbelief surfaced because
this was a small secluded aisle. The killer had to intentionally follow Maurice.
I also attended
the visitation because I needed to hug Charlotte. It took two hours to wind my
way into the funeral home. What I observed in the parking lot made the wait a
blessing. Standing in line, I observed, again, respect for others, calm,
long-time friends greeting one another and conversation among strangers. Why do
our best manners only get dusted off in the midst of tragedy?
coverage has not ended. Charges have been filed but the most significant, that
of being a hate crime, has to find its way through the justice system. According
to news reports, prior to the shooting, the gunman allegedly tried to enter a
predominantly black church nearby but was unable to get inside. When that
attempt failed, he went to Kroger instead and opened fire in the store.
As the days
pass, I sit with sadness. Maurice’s life mattered to me; his black male life mattered
to me. The relationship I had with him makes all the difference.
I pray with the
words of the Kaddish that we have heard so often recently: May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us all…may the
One who creates harmony on high bring peace to us.