Back in the day, when I was raising my daughter, Sarah, we lived in Cicero and then in Arcadia. The small- town hospitality was just what we needed to feel safe and cared for. Sarah went to the local elementary school and then to Walnut Grove. She played softball and rode her bike everywhere. We lived close enough to the train tracks that we could hear the train whistling and even feel the vibrations of the locomotives at night just before sleep. We established our faith community at Trinity United Methodist Church. This is where my love of hospitality and true church community thrived and grew. Maybe Arcadia was where the seed was planted to eventually become a pastor. I have fond memories and still hold Cicero and Arcadia dear to my heart. It was during this time also that Ryan White, AIDS victim, came to live and go to school.
What I remember is that at first it was not easy. There were a number of people who were suspicious and fearful. There were letters written to the school board and calls to the principal. I remember there were a few people who kept their children at home for a time. But then something happened, hearts and minds were changed. People were educated and the community ended up embracing him and the whole family. Today, long after Ryan died, there is much pride that the Hamilton Heights School System, throughout Cicero, Arcadia and Atlanta because they embraced a boy who had AIDS. They carried him through his short life with acts of love and service. I wonder, if he had been Black, would the community still surround him with this love and acceptance? We really do not know the answer, there is only speculation.
When I was asked to be involved with Cicero’s “Love can Build a Bridge” campaign and community demonstration, I was honored and humbled. Today, I live a stone throws away from Cicero and I have several parishioners from Cicero who attend Roots of Life. Cicero is my community too. What can we do to end racism? The horrific death of George Floyd has been the straw that has broken the backs of many people concerned about rampant racism, unmitigated White Privilege and the shadow of the sins against people of color. It is time for conversation, it is time for repentance, and it is time to listen to the voices and stories of people who we have silenced, because of the color of their skin.
It is my belief that there are more people in Cicero and Northern Hamilton County that feel the same way, yet for some reason they remain silent. The time is now to speak up and against racism and the insidious way it has been woven through our community. By recognizing and confessing our own personal bias’s, alongside recognizing the systemic racism of our culture, we can begin to heal. Love can build a bridge.
Please join me, alongside community members of Northern Hamilton County, on Sunday June 14th at 1:00 at the Red Bridge Pier. Stand in solidarity as a community to say that racism has no home in this place of love and hospitality.