My people, I write to you in love and grief at another moment of violence in our Milwaukee community. On Sunday evening by the lakefront, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Truax shot into a moving vehicle that was apparently fleeing a traffic infraction. Video shows two black people in the front seat of the car who were shot, and a third, in back, who was not. News reports say that the driver, 19-year-old Terry Williams, is on life support, while the passenger, 23-year-old Paula McEwen, is expected to survive.
I notice myself going through grief reactions: horror, shock, anger, sorrow, fear, helplessness, hyper-vigilance, a fervent need to fix what is broken in our community. These feelings come and go in waves as I process the reality of another young black person needlessly shot through the operations of institutions charged with justice.
Our city, our society, is deeply, painfully, and cruelly divided by race. When racism and white supremacy are embedded in our institutions, especially the institutions licensed to use force, real human bodies suffer—real people in our city, our neighbors—face torn flesh, lost love, and deep trauma. It is unconscionable. All of us who live in the city are violated when violence is perpetrated, because it tears the fabric of our community. The injustice that makes Rachel weep for her lost children affects all our souls, whether we recognize it or not, because our souls are tied to one another.
So let your souls weep with the lost children, my friends, let yourself process the grief of another rip in the web of existence of which we are all apart. Acknowledging sorrow and grief enables love, it enables justice, and it even enables joy, because it keeps us in touch with our souls and with the whole. May we never lose the connection with our neighbors, or our own soul, and may we use our love to work for justice for every inherently worthy, beautiful human in our city.
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is a home for spiritual community, social justice, and intellectual freedom, active in Milwaukee since 1842. Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive denomination; core principles include recognition of the worth and dignity of every person; respect for the interdependent web of existence; and the goal of world peace, liberty and justice.
The Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom is First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee’s Senior Minister. Jennifer is primarily responsible for worship, mission, vision, leadership, prophetic witness, and congregational systems. She is also head of staff at First Church.