Recently I was invited to be a guest on the CJ Rhodes Show in Jackson, MS to discuss the black church history, heritage, its role in black community, and how the people in the church can contribute to preventing gun violence in their communities.
If you were not aware, I am a survivor of gun violence. In 1980, I lost my 25 year old mother Sharon Neal to an act of domestic violence that involved a gun and in 2016, my 18 year old nephew Kevin Neal, Jr was killed in a senseless act of gun violence. This week is National Survivors of Gun Violence week an as a Senior Fellow with the Everytown for Gun Safety Survivor Network, I share my story of how my family has been impacted by gun violence with the hopes of helping others and effecting change so that no more lives will be lost to acts of gun violence. Read my latest Op-Ed piece that helps to empower others to share their stories to prevent and eventually end gun violence in our country.
I’ve been experiencing much grief following the death of George Floyd and the looting and rioting that has plagued cities across this country. I could only find one way to express that grief through my writing. I wrote this poem as a reflection piece to help me articulate what I was seeing and feeling.
Two black boys playing with the trash thrown out of the house
Taking apart a broken chair saying, “Hulk Smash!”
Young black boy playing on the porch with his dogs
While music in the car next to him blasts Nipsey Hussle
Three black children on the playground across the town
Running and screaming not fearing anything or anyone around
One black man on the ground telling his captors I can’t breathe
barely making a sound
More black men gathering around enjoying life in quarantine’s vault
Fearing nothing now until cops roll up and everything comes to a halt.
One elderly black man tending the garden in the yard of the home he’s lived in for years
Raised his children in community without fear
Now seeing scorned earth for blocks where life was once good
Hope all gone has deflated the neighborhood
Streets torn apart not by cops but by black brothers and sisters with ricocheting gun shots
One black man walking his dog in the neighborhood
Vexing less melanated citizens fearing he’s up to no good
His presence evokes fear and threats to others simply
Though he makes no noise or scene he is simply being seen
They avoid him like the flu desperately trying to get away
But he resolves that for his children’s future, it’s a price he’s willing to pay
Yes, people say Black Lives Matter
but we’re seeing in real time how quickly that black life can shatter
Into a million pieces of brokenness and breaking hope of generations past
Black man forced to be silent
Because he knows if he speaks too loud or too bold he’ll incite a riot
Too many black men and women caged in a cell
Cause a systemically unjust society condemned them to hell
With the same blindness of justice refusing them bail
Let them rot cause they’re better safe where they are
which makes us safe from them
The existential quarantine against the man whose blackness forces him to shelter in place
To stay in his lane and not run the race of freedom..don’t breathe just lie in state
Breathe or not its their own fault some say
The pain he sees and feels replacing the pleasure of a life promised to be lived
Being a black man in a fair-weather world
Trying to make a dollar every day makes you wanna holler
Rage against the machine as its raging against you
Copyright June 2, 2020 Lorenzo T. Neal
My Moment to share my reflection from the last several months
It has been a minute since I have written anything on this page and although I have had many thoughts that have been put to paper, they have not made the cut to publish. Each day of this pandemic and sheltering in place has been challenging for the entire world. Although we have history on our side regarding humans surviving major viral epidemics, there is for us today a more intense sense of uncertainty, unrest, and impatience for this to come to an end soon. Countries around the world are seeing people protest their government’s decision to actualize shelter in place orders. In the US, leaders in some faith communities have been openly defying orders against large gatherings for religious and non-religious purposes and even bringing lawsuits against their state leaders citing the First Amendment right to assemble and freedom of religion. It has also sparked intense political actions with the hopes of one side beating the other with propaganda for or against more government spending and fully opening the country before an economic collapse happens.
On a more personal note, it has made me more grateful for each breath I take and each day I am afforded to live. Hearing of the deaths of acquaintances, friends, loved ones from the COVID-19 virus and the thousands of others who have contracted the virus and are fighting for their lives or have recovered has certainly made life more sobering. The biggest challenge for me has been making the adjustment of being a virtual pastor. While doing video and teleconferencing is nothing new to me, virtual preaching has certainly been different. I was fortunate to have begun the process of live streaming services some time ago, I am one of those pastors who understood the future of those services but was unprepared to have to begin it under such conditions. The congregation I have been blessed and privileged to under shepherd is thriving and even growing despite not meeting in person. They certainly inspire me to continue studying to show myself approved as an unashamed workman of Christ.
I am certain that historians will look back upon this moment in time and mention the tenacity of the people in the world amid a global pandemic. Even after we are back to some sense of normalcy, it is still my goal and obligation to be an empowering and liberating voice of justice for those who are in need of hearing it. It is my goal and obligation to continue serving this present age my calling to fulfill.