In late 2018, November or December, I was sitting in the parking lot of a coffee shop I frequent; it’s next door to a popular bakery. While talking on the phone, finishing a conversation before I went in for a coffee, two policemen approached my car with firearms drawn, both hands on their guns and elbows locked. I immediately did what I was taught when I was younger: “Son, put your hands up where they can see them.” I can remember being so glad I was on the phone and my caller knew where I was. I told the person what was happening, then told him to not hang up… just listen.
The officers asked what I was doing. “Talking on the phone,” I replied. They were looking for a black man in an SUV. One of the officers looked around, while the other kept his eyes on me. They saw another black man in an SUV and went to him, leaving me safe, but shaken having had my life threatened.
On Monday evening, May 25, Minneapolis Police responded to a call on suspected forgery. Upon arrival they detained 46-year-old George Floyd. During their arrest, a video was taken by a bystander that shows one of four officers with his knee on the neck of an already handcuffed George Floyd. We can hear the pleas of George clearly: “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts… (I need) water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe, officer… I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.” Onlookers can be heard begging for the officers to “check his pulse” and telling them that “he is not responsive.”
When we were younger, “please” was always the “magic word.” George asked them to stop. Onlookers asked them to stop. George Floyd even asked them “please.” What if I wasn’t so polite to the policemen in 2018 who pointed a firearm at me for talking on the phone and getting a coffee? Would I be here today?
There are so many emotions I am wrestling with this morning. I have been spending time praying between every phone conversation and email. It feels like just yesterday I was writing to you about Ahmaud Arberry; and now George Floyd. So again, we acknowledge it is important to lead in moments like these. Please continue to lead in love, voice, and action as Free Methodists.
George’s “please” was not heeded. I ask you to heed mine:
- Please remember George. Remember what he stands for as a broken nation. Remember how recently it was we were forced to address this very issue.
- Please commit to prayer for his family and the black communities throughout our country.
- Please continue to weep with those who weep, advocate in every way possible, and protest everywhere we do not witness justice as it should–but please, let us not fight one another.
- Please be ready to be whom God called us to be as Free Methodist during this season.
I am encouraged to be part of the Body of Christ that is committed to prayer, practice, and presence to minister and advocate for justice for all people–and this week especially for black men and black families.
On Behalf of the Superintendent Team