I stood in an empty lot, my bag resting on the park bench as I adjusted the hood of my sweatshirt. A few minutes earlier, I was eating dinner across the street. Then the media outlets called and told me if someone wasn’t available to interview instantly, they would kill the story.
Kill the story about the vigil for the man who was killed and then dumped into a river. Really.
So I went out into the cold empty lot and did the interviews, leaving Ledcat to pack up the dinner and take care of things. And then I stood there, waiting for people to show up. Traffic was very bad, parking was worse. It was cold and snowing. But I had stood in the winter months with large crowds of LGBTQ people gathering around marriage equality, non-discrimination and a non-lethal assault of two queer people of color in the South Side. People turned out then, in hordes, in the much more bitter cold. Surely, they would be here in this space regardless of weather, traffic and such things. They wouldn’t let the story be killed.
The vigil was incredibly uplifting and heartwrenching. There were prayers and poems. We held hands and hugged a lot. I had my arm around Andre’s mother as she spoke about the day she learned that Andre had come home, the day the police called her. There was a bond forged between family, friends and strangers who gathered in the cold little lot to honor the memory of Andre Gray.
I was exhausted at the end. I was a bit irate with the media outlets for trying to wrestle answers out of us – was this a hate crime? was it motivated by the fact that Andre was bisexual? why is this a LGBT issue? I felt like I was engaged in a duel the entire time I was speaking with them, grateful Ledcat and I had prepared for these questions. I was grateful my friend Jason was there to drive me home. I was grateful my friend K.S. Kennedy Floral sent a beautiful orchid. And I was honored that a bunch of Andre’s friends and family sent me friend requests on Facebook.
I don’t really have any more words at this time. This post is about me, yes, because I was standing in the empty lot holding an orchid in the cold weather and feeling a lot of pain, wondering if my reputation as “divisive” (thanks for that slam, padre – of course it got back to me) got in the way of the vigil. I guess I’ll never know. I can only speak to my own feelings in this moment and share what I observed.
Much thanks to those who were there in the moment to celebrate and mourn including representatives from Judah Fellowship, 1Hood, Equality PA, the GLCC, and individuals in the LGBTQ community. Councilwoman Deb Gross came and spoke about Andre as a Lawrenceville neighbor. It was an honor the Reverend Glenn Grayson joined us – he lost his adult son to gun violence several years ago. His prayer stirred something inside me that was what I needed to be able to walk away from that parklet and shake off the sadness and loneliness.
These two videos are from Idasa Tariq who represented 1Hood. He graciously allowed me to post them. It is very amateur videography (I took it), but you can hear him – if you listen. And you can see how Andre’s mother, Victoria, hears him – if you look.
I wish I could write a book about Andre.
The memorial fund for Andre Gray is still active if you would like to show your support.