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Justice for all: Drawing strength and demanding change through another mother’s grief

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My heart aches as I wait in line. Like most Wednesday mornings I’ve stopped into the Saddle Creek Starbucks after carpool to write during a short window of free time. At the press conference, #tyrenichols mother said he came to this Starbucks every morning around 8:30. Were we ever in line together? Seated next to each other? My gaze shifts across the familiar faces of baristas & I wonder if they recognized his name as one of the many they've scribbled mindlessly across warm cardboard cups during the morning shuffle. Did they know his face from the pictures that were released? They wouldn't in the last one taken of him from the hospital bed-his entire head swollen, bruised, bloody...bludgeoned- but I bet some of them knew him from the pictures his family shared of him alive, vibrant in front of orange sunset skies. He was tall and lanky with a memorable face, a genuine smile.

If not the Starbucks regulars, how many Memphians felt a pit in their stomach as she described his appreciation for Shelby Farms? I don't know a single person here who doesn't share a similar sense of gratitude for the peaceful serenity that space offers our community. If not Shelby Farms or Starbucks, maybe it’s the FedEx family tie that made others who don’t know him take pause. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone here who listened to his mother’s description of a typical day in the life of Tyre Nichols without realizing how often their paths probably crossed. We are all so much more connected than we know.

I wonder if any of my fellow Starbucks patrons are thinking of him too. Would he be here now had he not been pulled over for that traffic stop? It feels like a misplaced emotion to miss someone I never met — probably never would have met even if he'd lived on to continue sharing a Starbucks of choice with me — but it's the only way I know to describe this feeling. I was never aware of his presence but I feel his absence. I wish he was here right now. It’s 8:30. He should be here now.

I can't quit thinking about his mother having to watch the video of his final moments. I can't quit thinking about all of the other mothers bearing witness to her grief but whose empathy is compounded again with the stark reality it could just as easily be their baby someday. It’s hard enough carrying the weight of worrying about my children being shot by a gunman at school or in Target, at the movies, in a Starbucks...How privileged I am not to have to shoulder the burden of understanding they might also be murdered as the result of a simple traffic stop by someone promising to protect them when I cannot.

I worry about what will happen to Memphis upon the release of the footage but more than anything I worry what this broken record of a sadistic storyline is doing to us collectively. And I am praying that this place — so rooted in the complexities that make our nation simultaneously sick and spectacular — could emerge a catalyst for positive, meaningful change out of this gut-wrenching tragedy. We haven't been given many reasons to hope for that around here lately but anyone who knows Memphis understands there’s still reason to root for us. Even as we question our safety and reel in the uncertainty of where our city is headed, those who know Memphis understand she embodies a soul that transcends racial, political and economic barriers — a soul capable of bringing light to Tyre’s story in a way that could in turn shine hope into a nation entrenched in darkness. I believe in us. We need everyone to believe in us. Please pray for his family and for Memphis as we work towards a future of justice, acceptance, true freedom. Peace. A victorious Memphis undoubtedly points to a better and brighter America. #justicefortyrenichols #PrayForMemphis

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