|Dear First Church Members and Friends,
We write to you with heavy hearts, in this painful week following the Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back in front of his partner and children.
Our region is roiling with grief, protests, and unrest. This is the grief of this moment: the awful violence Jacob Blake and his family experienced; the upswelling of grief and rage against the system that perpetuates this kind of violence against Black bodies; and the reactionary violence of white militia members prioritizing property over human life.
It is also the grief of centuries: the ancestral indwelling of trauma passed down through generations, stemming from our nation’s original wound of slavery and slavery’s descendants, Jim Crow and the modern prison industrial complex. This centuries-old trauma of racism and white supremacy lives in our bones as Americans, vibrates through our systems of justice, and keeps wounding and re-wounding our souls. It is alive in the cries of the protesters, snaking in the veins of the militia members, and beating in the breath of the police and National Guard. It is in us, our neighbors, and our systems.
This new trauma has wildly erupted in the lives of Jacob Blake and his family, traumatizing his young children, parents, and siblings, and rippling out through his extended family. More trauma cascaded out in the shooting violence from Tuesday night, with two new shooting victims and their families. The city of Kenosha has experienced trauma as well, as have the shooters. Everyone’s lives are changed, everyone has a new soul wound.
Every time there is a new trauma, a new soul wound, it touches all the old wounds of our individual histories, our collective history, and our ancestral history. These all vibrate together, raising the stakes and the pain.
There is also a new opportunity for healing if we choose to make this old story new. We could do better this time. We could change the way we respond, change the outcome, change the systems, and heal the soul wounds that perpetuate this kind of violence. We do not have to reinscribe the same old story, reinscribe the same trauma. We could open up, listen anew, and change how we do things.
Our country is being called to the table of reckoning. May we come to it, this time not with guns and suppression and old stories, but with newly open hearts, ready to learn, change, and heal. This is both systems work and soul work. For the systems, we can donate funds for supplies to the protestors through our Faith in the Streets collaboration partner, Zao—MKE church at www.zaomke.org/give, and select “Protest Supplies and Distribution Project”, or to the bail fund for protesters, the Milwaukee Freedom Fund at https://supportwomenshealth.salsalabs.org/mkefreedomfund/index.html. If you would like to volunteer to help with the work of distributing supplies, you can contact First Church member and Faith in the Streets Coordinator Katie Maedke-Hall. For the soul, we can contribute to the GoFundMe fund for Jacob Blake’s family at https://www.gofundme.com/f/justiceforjacobblake, and we can recommit ourselves to our own journey of anti-racism, both personally and as a congregation. As a congregation, we will have an opportunity this fall to re-engage in the Beloved Conversations curriculum online. We will share the ways to sign up for that soon.
Wherever you are on your journey with the old soul wound of racism and white supremacy, may you be held. May you be healed. May you be part of the larger healing. We are in this together.
Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, Senior Minister
Rev. Dena McPhetres, Associate Minister
Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education
and the Anti-Racism Team of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee