What You Should Know About St. Paul Right Now

Black sign with white writing.

It’s so close to our house that I’ve driven by it every day on my way to the studio without even trying. But yesterday Bjork and I actually got out and watched and listened and learned and wrestled with some hard feelings at the intersection where Philando Castile was shot.

The news / online narrative about all that’s going on right now seems to be: hate. tension. fear. protests that have become violent. It’s overwhelming and heavy and desperate.

But here’s what I want people to know, since not everyone lives within walking distance of this and not everyone will have the chance to see this firsthand. I want you to know that yesterday I was there and I saw a different story.

There were flowers and candles everywhere on both sides of the busy road. Strangers of all races and all ideologies talking respectfully with each other, even disagreeing with each other but taking pictures together and exchanging “free hugs.” One person playing guitar and a small group of people singing along.

Quotes, poems, Bible verses, and messages about LOVE and PEACE written in chalk all over the sidewalk. Posters and signs and cards with written memorials, stories, and love for Philando. It was a beautiful tribute to Philando. But there were also several notes in honor of Alton Sterling. And I saw a handful of written memorials for the police officers killed in Dallas written by the same people who wrote memorials for Philando. Even one thank you written specifically to the officers who are keeping the protests in St. Paul safe.

In addition to all the love and outpouring for Philando, there were clarifying messages written for white people – “Yes, Black Lives Matter, and please know that our movement is not anti-white.” And thoughtful messages acknowledging white privilege – “White Privilege is: never being stopped on Larpentuer once in 40 years of living here.”

Cars honked in solidarity as they drove by, and as we were getting ready to leave, three little preschool-age kiddos came up to us to pet Sage – one White, one Biracial, and one Black who was proudly sporting a police badge sticker on his shirt. His dad stayed close behind him, reminding him to pet the doggie gently and not pull her tail, and Sage dog-smiled and wagged her tail (well, let’s be honest, she was a little nervous) and let the kids rub her belly. It felt altogether so regular and so sacred and so hopeful.

The hard work is not done, not at all. It’s only just beginning. We see, name, and condemn racism. The hurt is real and raw. But to anyone who, like me, feels hopeless in all this, you can know that yesterday in St. Paul there were small steps of healing taking place. Even amongst the anger and hurt and deep sorrow for a loved one lost too soon yet again, the overwhelming sense I got from everyone there was one of love and unity.

The thing about living in this time is that we have an opportunity right now to pick up our communities and move towards justice and healing. We have an opportunity.

Chalk Art for Philando Castile.

Being a part of this was all such a moving experience that I forgot to take pictures, so I grabbed these ones from Snapchat – you can see a few more pictures and videos from the protest at the Governor’s mansion and the intersection where Philando was shot on my story for the next few hours. Username pinchofyum.

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