Thoughts for Real Change
I have elected to complete 10K a Day in May – run, bike, row, weights, walk – accumulating the meters in a variety of ways to stay on track through the month.
Today was a particularly challenging entry. Frigid weather from an unexpected polar vortex in May and legs sore from high volume squat workouts in the days prior contributed to the difficulty but were no comparison for the emotional overwhelm in completing the distance in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, bringing awareness to the on-going racism, injustice and violence against Black people in the United States.
To complete the distance while honoring his memory, I completed the 2.23 miles, representing the date of his death, three times.
The first I ran as a runner – in solidarity with Ahmaud for the shared experience of lacing up shoes, mapping new routes, marking distance and pace. Considering that he might have run for exercise, for cross-training in sport, for mental clarity, for time in the great outdoors, for exploration of his neighborhood and seeing friends along the way, for any or no reason, simply for the rhythm of the most natural form of exercise available to humankind. In those steps as a runner, I considered when I have felt fear on a run – a distinct memory arises from my college years, running alone at night on a dark country road, a car swerves suddenly, stopping in front of me and the woman driving issues harsh words, warning of my danger, relating her own experience of assault while running. Those were frightening miles back to my apartment – and yet, after controlling for the variables of solo, country roads and after dark, I continued my running experience relatively unimpeded. How Ahmaud could be under such threat in broad daylight in a highly populated area is unfathomable. Why any act of running is invitation for malicious and violent behavior is reprehensible. I will continue to run and every time I cross the 2.23 mile mark, I will honor the memory of Ahmaud while investigating how to advocate for the safety of Black people in all forms of recreation across the country.
The second I ran as a mother – in solidarity with Wanda Cooper-James, mother of Ahmaud Arbery. My own two sons are May babies like Ahmaud, with his birthday nestled just between theirs. The pain of losing a child is an unimaginable injury to the soul with the added insult of knowing it was at the hands of violence and hatred, with response void of compassion or justice. While I cannot know what Wanda is experiencing, I can hold space for all of it as a mother – honoring her, seeing her, listening to her and discovering how I can be an ally in the call for justice. These miles were the hardest – twisting and turning through the woods, unsure of my way, second guessing my path, wondering and wandering – reflecting the challenges of motherhood. I imagine what she might have planned for this day for Ahmaud, celebrating the 26th anniversary of her birthing day. I will continue to hold space and every May that I celebrate the birthdays of my own sons, I will think of Wanda and Ahmaud, of the 25 birthdays shared and all those they imagined for many years to come, making wishes and taking action to prevent further separation of Black mothers and sons at the hands of violence.
The third I ran as a human – in solidarity with all who have suffered such horrific violence, those who know and love them and, in what was a constant struggle for my mind over all the miles, in awareness of the continuum of human connection extending from the murderer to the murdered. I believe in the oneness of humanity, of the universe. Of the common human spirit, the power of community and, while I would love to only see the health of humanity through this lens, it is inconvenient but necessary to turn directly toward that which caused the death of Ahmaud and see clearly my role as I gain awareness of the collective mindset.
Considering the simple fact of Black man running, I can only begin to imagine what thought or thoughts could exist to generate a feeling of such strong hatred to lead to the action of murder in broad daylight, in cold blood, and how the result of Black man murdered could possibly be one desired by or viewed as positive by anyone in the human race. And yet. Ahmaud is not alone in his fate. Not nearly. Whatever thought that led to this outcome is not isolated to this father and son duo. Not hardly. And the social media purporting their innocence, 17K strong and growing, would indicate that it is not isolated to the criminals in the numerous documented acts of violence. There is collective thought causing these feelings of anger and hatred, leading to acts of violence. And if we continue to accept the result – whether desired by us or not – we continue to fuel the thought and the cycle continues.
It is easy to point fingers and to draw circles of exclusion. Certainly, the majority of us are not capable of murder and can feel free of responsibility for these heinous acts because we are tolerant, integrative, respectful of all. And yet. We can only change ourselves. We can only control our own thoughts, feelings and actions. Is possible to have an effect on these situations if we do not feel we are part of the problem? Is it possible we are part of the problem even if we are not directly involved in acts of violence?
Perhaps consider if you find the result of murder acceptable. If you do not, one option is to consider action you might take to prevent murder from happening. This can be quite daunting as it calls for control of others. Legislation and regulation that cannot be quickly or effectively enforced, as we have seen.
Consider as an alternative a result you do find acceptable, desirable even:
Equality? Equity? Parity? Integration? Peace? Unity?
Choose one as the result you hold for the world – globally or locally.
Consider the actions you can take to achieve this result:
Local advocacy? Kindness to your neighbors? Broadened understanding of the experience of others? Recognition of your own privilege? Deepened awareness of your inherent bias? Demonstration of your true kindness to all?
What feeling do you need to effectively take up those actions?
Love? Indignation? Integrity? Fairness?
What thoughts might create those feelings for you, specifically considering the original circumstance you with which this began: Black man running.
The choices are countless.
Pick one thought that resonates with you, truly creates the feeling and brings you to the authentic action that can create your desired result.
Consider the power of the collective to create those results, actively and vocally speaking up for justice through meaningful action and genuine feeling, created by our thoughts.
The power of thought is incredible. Let us make the volume of peace much louder than hate. Let us show by example the truest choice of thought and accept our place in the common thread of humanity – patching the holes of hate, anger and injustice by weaving love, peace, kindness, fairness, equity, strengthening the bonds of humankind. Today #irunwithmaud, tomorrow and ever more may we run with him and for all who have lost their lives to hate through miles measured in thoughts, feelings and actions that will create meaningful results of change, honoring their lives by ending the loss of any more.