The Memorial

Image Description: A brochure reads, “Black Lives Matter Memorial” and “We Must Never Forget…”

Over the weekend, I took a walk through an Ann Arbor neighborhood, and as I was walking down a particular street, I noticed that one yard in the distance was filled with crosses. These crosses — about 50 of them — emerged from the ground. I walked toward the house, curious to see what they were commemorating. As I neared them, I saw many names — about 50 of them — Most were names of Black people who had been killed by police, and some were Black people killed in recent, modern day lynchings.

I recognized most of these names because they had all been in the news over the last few years. Among them, I saw the name Ahmaud Arbury. He had been moving through a neighborhood too, just running, as I was now moving through a neighborhood on foot. I do not face these dangers though, simply for being, as he did. His full humanity went unrecognized in the presence of white people who decided he was a threat.

I learned that these crosses were entitled, “Black Lives Matter Memorial.” Those passing by could also pick up a brochure, and upon opening it, I saw that each name included a couple sentences about their age, what they cared about, how they died, and the date of their unjust death. All of these moments were named in print, though off of the page, they were experienced in ways that were embodied and devastating. These were cascading situations of injustice in which so many lives were abruptly ended, people simply going about their day only to be pulled over, or accused suddenly, or viewed as a threat while moving through a neighborhood.

I learned that the creator of this memorial is named John Thorne. Active in the community and in the Archdiocese of Detroit, he designed these crosses, also with the help of his son and his friends Elesia Green and Albert Strickland. The brochure reads, “Each handmade cross was made with love, to give dignity to each that was denied it while they lived.”

And —
Here we are once more.

Within the timespan of the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minnesota, police have now killed Daunte Wright in Minnesota, just 20 years old, beloved by his family and friends, a fully human person of worth who is particularly loved.

Why? A police officer pulled him over for a traffic stop due to where his car air freshener was placed.

We know that’s not why, and we know that shouldn’t end in death.

We know it.

As I read in an astute and gutting tweet this morning, white mass murderers are often safer than Black people who are pulled over during traffic stops. That is jolting, though not surprising. White mass shooters are taken alive into custody, revealing it is possible to apprehend people without killing them. Meanwhile, there’s a whole memorial of crosses in my town to honor the lives of Black people pulled to the side of the road by police.

Black Lives Matter.

This whole country socializes us to believe the opposite. Racism is a great evil, and the ideology and violence of white supremacy is around us. It’s also within us. It can seem subtle within us — just a sudden thought, or a bias unnoticed — but that isn’t subtle. It all leads to dehumanization, discrimination, or as I noticed within myself yesterday, some detachment from feeling the weight the weight of Daunte Wright’s death because I don’t have to protect myself from a similar outcome.

Black Lives Matter.

Daunte Wright’s Life Matters.

Black Lives Matter.

Renee Roederer

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