The Transformational Act of Sitting in a Dark Room

How to Grieve the Living by Tamisha Tyler
I pick up the phone to call. 
Your response is cold.
Our silence long and hollow. 
I lost you. 
I try to fill the spaces with moments that once was.
They are ghosts to me now.
You remain.
I cannot reconcile your life and our death.
So I learn to mourn your loss when I am with you.
by silencing expectations. 
and denying the resurrection of disappointment. 
I close my eyes when I see you.
Tell myself you are not there.
Not really.
Not for me.
 It takes too long.
your death was neither warranted nor expected.
Simple things can be powerful and transformational. Two weeks ago a group of us sat in a dark room and watched a heart-aching and beautifully constructed film, 13th by Ava Duvernay, about the intersections of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the US. Then we had a panel of academics, artists, and activists talk and answer questions. It was a holy and sacred space because a group of people chose to spent their Saturday evening in a room engaging with a very hard and painful reality. Everyone in the room stayed present to the film and the conversation. Staying present and engaged is a very simple yet hard thing. Too often it feels easier to not engage, to stay silent, or ignorant when something seems too hard or uncomfortable.  Yet as the above poem by Tamisha Tyler speaks to that failure to respond or engage actually can lead to something greater, the death of relationships and connection and in the case of the film’s subject the actual senseless deaths of people. Especially for those of us who hold privilege, specifically white privilege, we cannot afford to ignore or stay silent about the abuse black and brown people in the American system that consistently seeks new and creative ways to enact her original sin of slavery rooted in racism. As the quote goes “The only things necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” Will we do nothing? Or will we be transformed and moved to action by encountering the systemic abuse of people under our broken and biased system? 
Once we become aware of the suffering and injustice done to others the worst decision we can make is to do nothing. Watching a film, listening, talking, and believing people who have more knowledge and experience is the first and often the biggest step, it is the beginning of transformation….to seeing and listening in a different way. And from there we must ask how can I get involved to work for change? 


by Jessi Knippel


Photo by Isaac Knippel used with permission