Thoughts from Columbia Mennonite Fellowship’s Grace Whitlock Vega:
Grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this march along with my friend, Hien. We met people from around the world (first person we met was a French journalist from the newspaper “L’humanite”) and from our own back yard (folks from Columbia’s Quaker sponsored Fellowship of Reconciliation). Hien is from Vietnam and has lived in the US for ten years, alternately working as an engineer and getting advanced degrees in economics and business. Being in his company for this was enlightening and uplifting as he, a devout Christ-follower of 8 years, helped shine a light of hope for this Christ-follower of decades on many of the issues this protest/movement (I hope) is trying to address.
Grateful to walk shoulder to shoulder with Americans of many backgrounds and creeds from across the country to bring systemic, structural racism out into the open. The march was well organized with local people charged with aiding the police in crowd control and “de-escalation”. Not one person challenged these everyday folks with only specially colored vests to set them apart and indicate their role.
I watched some of the “de-escalators” do a remarkable job of performing their function for at east 20 minutes with a distraught man who shouted and gesticulated but never once took a step towards anyone in a violent manner. I firmly believe that the fact that the crowd control and de-escalation folks were people of color, ie some of the very people who usually experience the systemic injustices in many of our structures, and who had obviously trained on how to contain crowds and lower tensions in ways that recognized all of us as worthy of dignity and respect, kept this an exciting and peaceful exercise of constitutional rights.
I continue to pray that good can begin to come out of the tragic deaths of Mike Brown, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant and the far too many other unarmed people of color killed either by over-aggressive police or private citizens acting on fear perpetuated by racist stereotypes and bias.