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We are each other’s people

Comments on behalf of Providence Monthly Meeting, Media PA, Chester Quarter, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

If you want peace, work for justice #BLM
If you want peace, work for justice #BLM Photo: Carl Roose / AFSC

These remarks were made at a Black Lives Matter solidarity event in Media, PA by Sarah Willie-LeBreton, a sociologist and Black Quaker.

We are each other’s people, and we have inherited the lie that we are not each other’s people. That the people of the pastnare not our people; that the people of the future are not our people; that the people of the present who live in different skins, or have different hair, or speak different languages, who practice different religions, who vote for different parties, or have different bodies are not our people.

And this lie is treason; this lie is blasphemy; this lie has led to this moment. If we can speak our history plainly, acknowledge our present candidly, and embrace each other genuinely, we expose the lie to the healing effects of truth.

As the universe unfolds, so we must insist that all of the places that have been the sites of human-inflicted pain, as well as human-created joy, belong to us; if we remember each group and individual tortured and reviled, beaten, raped, and threatened, bullied, spat upon and murdered, then we are mending the fabric of our nation and the universe.

Walk with me down streets of ignorance in suburbs. I’ll walk with you where no one greets us down sidewalks of small towns. Walk with me through the quiet anger of the countryside, and I’ll walk with you through resentment, confusion, and misunderstanding of the city. Name with me all that is shameful about making peace with racism and finding comfort in the presence of violence, poverty, and inequality. If we can bear witness to the shared delusion that democracy and fairness could ever truly thrive in such a moment, we may be able to save each other.

Reconciliation and redemption cannot be achieved in these few minutes we have together. But we can commit. In this moment of mourning, let us commit to exposing the lie of a glorious and innocent past, to dismantling the institutions of a deeply unjust present. Let us commit to each other, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer; let us commit to pursuing truth, justice, understanding, compassion, and respect for as long as we each shall live.

We are each other’s people. I am your people, and you are mine. Let us acknowledge and confess the wrongs we have done, the wrongs we have ignored, and the wrongs of the institutions we believed in. Let us seek forgiveness, acting our way into feeling, feeling our way into action, listening our way into a new understanding. Let us take on what must be taken on.

We are each other’s people. I am your people, and you are mine.

About the Author

Sarah Willie-LeBreton is a sociologist who teaches at Swarthmore College and a member of Providence Monthly Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. She lives in Media with her family.