by Rev. Traci Blackmon
My first intensive course for Kilns College is in the books.
When I arrived in Bend, after being in Charlottesville, I was triggered in ways I did not expect. I was emotionally traumatized by what initially felt like being alone in hostile space (a sea of white faces). I recognized that emotion as irrational, but I could not control it. I requested a change of hotels. Went shopping. Sought my grounding. But what was revealed to me was unprocessed trauma.
I left Charlottesville. Went home to worship & preach at Christ the King United Church of Christ and then left right back out to speak in Memphis. From Memphis I came to Bend. Without ever stopping to give myself the care I try to give others. This time the push through was hard but as the week advanced, I began to see God.
Yes. I learned there are indeed black people in Bend. But most importantly, I learned there are white people in Bend and lots of them! And they don't hate me. They don't see my presence as intolerable. They don't think I'm out to replace them. They don't think my death is an acceptable casualty. I am certain they are not perfect, but they are humane. And in that moment, I begin to relax in the knowledge that I am surrounded, in my everyday life, by people of all hues who love me for real. I was reminded of what is truth. That there are more of us, in all hues, than there are of them.
I refuse to let hate win, even in my head. The intensity of evil in some situations may cause us to temporarily see hate everywhere.
It is not the truth.
I had the opportunity to teach a group of amazing students. Overwhelmingly evangelical students. Most of whom had never even considered interrogating text and context, both in scripture and in the world, in the ways I challenged them to do this week. Many of whom looked like those in Charlottesville. But who were not those in Charlottesville. Who listened to me and walked with me and were challenged by me for almost 8 hours each day. Who opened up to me and who I believe grew with me. And in this time we both received some needed realignment.
For our final course exercise, I invited them to use transparencies to draw "life shaping" communities in their lives. I then paired them up and invited them to share those memories with one another. And then I invited them to look at one another through those transparencies. To really look at one another and to remember. We all come to every moment with all of our stuff, including the influences of our environment and the helps and the hurts of our past. The traumas we've endured and the lessons we've been taught. I asked them to sit with the knowledge that we all come with so much more than is ever immediately seen. And then I challenged them, in the work of justice, to never forget that this "stuff" is there and to never allow the stuff to be all they see. (It is more involved than this but that's enough for this post. )
I am grateful for this opportunity.
In spite of the hatred shown in Charlottesville. In spite of the hatred on Capitol Hill. In spite of the hatred shown in Boston. And Phoenix. And San Francisco. And Berkeley. And Springfield. And wherever else hatred may roar, LOVE is still more powerful. Love is still stronger. Love is still more enduring. Love is not the opposite of hate. Hatred is not LOVE's equal. Love will always win. Thank you for the much needed reminder this week Bend and Kilns College. I stand with LOVE!
Rev. Traci Blackmon teaches Pastoring a Movement at Kilns College. She gained national recognition for her leadership in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, MO. Subsequently she was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay Nixon. Rev. Blackmon also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partner-
ships. She is the Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO. She is a featured voice for community engagement and change— specifically in articulating the church’s role in these areas.