I caught the Holiday Spirit at the Clearwater Beach traffic circle on December 13th.
Twenty of us – mostly but not all Unitarian Universalists – stood at the circle for more than an hour with the simple message: Black Lives Matter Here. Like the marchers in Washington and men and women in other cities that day, we were protesting the killing of unarmed black men and children by police officers and the failure of a grand jury to indict an officer even when the entire incident was video recorded. What we’ve been seeing it looks like lynching.
I caught the Holiday Spirit because people of all ages and all races had come together across the country that day to protest this ongoing injustice and stand in solidarity with the victims of those police (a minority of officers) who have violated the law. I caught the Holiday Spirit because a diverse group had come together in Clearwater with the same message. We stood in solidarity not just with the dead victims – there is little we can do for them – but also with their families, who will be missing a father this Christmas, or a brother or a son. We were declaring that Clearwater, Florida may not be at center of the issue, but people here care about this injustice. We stand with those who have suffered and we will stand against it happening here. Some of our signs read “Black Lives Matter Here in Clearwater.”
There were some negative shouts from drivers around the circle. But there were many more affirmations: waves, thumbs up, and peace signs by people of all ages and races. There were so many young whites expressing their support that my hope level got a serious boost. And then there were the many black men and women who shouted “Thank you” as they drove by. The driver of a commercial passenger van headed toward the beach hotels made eye contact and nodded ever so slightly. Later he came back – this time with no passengers – and flashed a highly visible thumbs up. The middle aged driver of a truck towing a trailer of landscaping equipment slowed down enough to speak a few words directly without stopping traffic. When I got back to my apartment complex in Largo that evening, one of my neighbors, a young man named Jonah, walked up to me and said, “Thank you for being out there today.” He was sitting next to his uncle, who is his employer, when the landscaper slowed down his truck on the circle. Jonah and I had a good long talk before we both went inside.
The Holiday Spirit is not defined by gifts, nor by miracles, nor by the music we so much enjoy. It is not defined even by the gathering of family from a distance.
It is defined by the manifestation of love in solidarity with those who are disenfranchised, those who might be enemies the day before and after, those who have not a place to lay their heads.
More than the commemoration of past events, Hanukkah and Christmas are about the possibilities ahead of us and within us. They are about the people around us – whether family or stranger – and how we can live together in solidarity and justice.
I’ve caught the Holiday Spirit and I am celebrating!
Rev Dr TJ