Today, processing down E55th Street in Chicago, my voiced joined the voices of my brothers and sisters as we cried out for justice for the death of more than 300 children who have died on the Southside of Chicago between 2008 and today, and in memory of Trayvon Martin.
It is hard to write such figures, because the Southside is now my home. This community is my sanctuary from the pressures of exegesis papers and endorsement essays. This neighborhood has fed me with foods that I never ate before, music I never heard before, and prays with people from all around the world that without this place I never would have met.
A few months back I wrote a post on my personal blog where I talked about violence I saw upon moving to this community. A colleague (and now friend) who grew up here shared with me that too often good-intentioned people do a disservice to this community and only speak of the Southside's times of trial. There is tendency to perpetuate a negative stigma. Yes, there is darkness in this place, but part of my responsibility while living here is to show the light that shines that lives here.
The Southside of Chicago is filled with brave people who are doing their best everyday. It is the bravery of this community that we could gather together at LSTC, reading name after name for blocks at a time of lives who were lost too young. It is the bravery of this community that the people who marched were seminary students, spouses, and young children. It is the bravery of this community that today the people who assembled were a blend of PhD students with maintenance workers, lay with rostered, across multiple denominations and several ethnicity groups.
It is also this community which prompted the healing service held at LSTC in chapel this past Monday, where we acknowledged survivors of domestic and sexual assault. This justice is not limited to the seminary. LSTC is in the same community where week after week pastors preach from pulpits to heal the grief of lives lost, where people gather together to fight against hunger and poverty, and families nurture their children to be the future of our tomorrow.
It is not easy to name the hardships in our community, and it can be even harder to name a communities successes when it is most often associated with hardships. I will never censor myself from speaking out against the injustices of my community, whether it is the southside of Chicago, or a rich suburb in Cleveland. But today, as I remember the power of marching for peace in my community, I remember the advice of my colleague and friend. When I speak of injustice, I will also speak of the good work that is done in these places.
The gospel I hope to preach with my words and my actions is a gospel of reconciliation, building the bridge between rocky paths and smooth roads. Today the gospel that I witnessed is the gospel of the Southside of Chicago, a place that is not afraid to heal in a time when it is easy to remain in hurt.