by Jim Hopkins
Editor’s Note: Last month’s News included an article about the Black Lives Matter memorial in Mandana Green which was later vandalized – according to eye-witness accounts – by someone who appeared to be mentally ill. The memorial was almost immediately restored, and a rededication ceremony on July 16 was organized by Jim Hopkins, Kira Pascoe and Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas.
Speaking at the the July 16th vigil to rededicate the Black Lives Matter Memorial on Mandana Green, neighborhood resident Shamieka Nixon said,
I want to say upfront, we don’t know the motivations of the person who destroyed the memorial on Monday. We do know the motivations of those who created it. Ray and Robbin conceptualized, created and put each stake in the dirt, by hand, twice, in order to honor these unarmed black and brown people killed by police.
This tragically beautiful work of art can trigger people in different ways. It triggered in me an immense appreciation for my neighbors, knowledge that real radical change is possible and a realization that it will happen block by block. In this very spot, I’ve seen strangers open up to each other as they process the display. I’ve witnessed passersby show up to help install both times and, afterward, to pay respect with flowers, candles, prayers and unfortunately adding names of other victims.
The Black Lives Matter Memorial is important to our neighborhood because it proclaims, in ways public, memorable and moving that:
Ours is a city that not only talks about welcoming all but aspires to live that welcome.
Ours is a neighborhood that not only hosts memorials to justice but actively seeks justice for all.
Ours is a town that not only calls for an honest telling of history but engages in such a telling.
The memorial itself is very fragile, as shown by the ease with which it was vandalized. However the commitments, vision and hope it represent are enduring. It calls out the best in us while embodying the truth that this best is both fragile and beautiful, both easily broken and very resilient, both rooted in the moment and expressive of eternal values.
As a pastor, I urge our congregants to visit the memorial, to read the stories and to whisper the names. I urge them to kneel, and even to take off their shoes, for in my humble opinion when we do so we are on sacred ground.
Jim Hopkins is in his thirty-second year as the Senior Pastor at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. He is the Co-chair of the Board of Directors of Faith in Action East Bay, Vice-president of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County and President of the Lakeshore Avenue Business Improvement District Board. He is past Chair of the Board of the American Baptist Seminary of the West.