Promises to Keep

Three days ago 15 year old Jordan Edwards was shot in the head with a rifle at point blank range by a Police officer named Roy Oliver.
There are so many awful pieces to this story but a few I find hard to shake. From Jordan’s mom, “As soon as they shot Jordan, my son Vidal called me instantly. He drove the car away from the police up the block so that nobody else would be shot and then pulled over. All I could hear was screaming and crying and the boys saying that police had just shot and killed Jordan. I could hardly make sense of it all.” And then the phone went dead. Jordan’s father got in a car and drove all over town, in a panic, looking for the boys. He had no idea where they were.

I would do this. I have a contingency plan set up with my children in the event of an emergency. Just send the location and I will come. I have this plan because I am afraid of the police.

The officer was immediately fired. On Thursday – the day of Jordan’s wake, he was charged with murder. He will now go through our criminal system. Many people are calling for justice to be served.

The grief is so fresh. The images so unyielding it is hard to think of abolition in these moments. It is hard to remember that, as an abolitionist, I don’t want anyone to go to jail. I do not want jails to exist. I don’t want anyone punished in this way. And while abolishing police is one of the goals – locking them up or giving them a death sentence is not part of that equation.

So what do I want?

Years ago, my youngest son made me promise that if anyone killed him that I wouldn’t seek to have that person prosecuted. Even if he were killed by the police. He told me to promise. I did.

I promised. Should he become a victim I would center his wishes – the wishes of the victim – that is what Restorative Justice does. I really don’t want to imagine in detail what I would do if one of my children were killed. I really have not wanted to imagine that I was Jordan Edward’s mom this week. But there was no stopping my mind from imagining. It makes me cry. Right now I am crying. My kids are 22, 23 and 27, and 28. If they happen to be sleeping in my apartment I STILL sneak in and check to see if they are breathing – just like I did when they were babies. I daydream all the time that I have lost them. When the phone rings late at night I immediately wake up and my heart skips and my breathing becomes shallow. It is shallow right now.

But for a moment, I will think about what I actually would want from the person who committed this act of violence.

I think I would want to tell them all about the person I loved. I would want to tell them ALL about them. Everything. All the struggles. all the celebrations. The way they made me laugh and the times they made me cry. I would not want it to be as a “victim impact statement” presented in a courtroom. I f….ing hate courtrooms. They are violent, oppressive, cold places. I would want it to be in a place of my choosing. If I felt like they weren’t listening or hearing me, I would stop and quit that session. And another time would be scheduled and I would begin again. Maybe I would talk for days. I would sit and tell story after story so they could feel my love and my loss filling up the room.No lawyers. No lawyers. And I wouldn’t want them talking to any media people at all. It would need to be a media black out. When I was done speaking I would want to know if anything I said made them think of anything in their own life. Just like we do in Circles. Actually, I would want there to be a circle keeper I know and love. And I would try and listen.

I wouldn’t want them to be able to go back to life as it was. Something big would have to change. I don’t know what.

And that’s as far as I can get. I feel certain jail would not bring my loved one back. Dwelling on images of vengeance would not give me peace.

I would not have to forgive anyone. I don’t think I believe in forgiveness. I think there must be another word that hasn’t been made up yet – or is from a culture or language I do not know. I only have English. I only have America. I only have a country that still murders people for committing crimes.

What Jordan Edward’s mom and family want is up to them. It should be anyway. I would not impose my belief system on her or her family. And honestly, I can’t be certain that my feelings wouldn’t change depending on the circumstance.

But I have watched grief. I worked in a children’s hospital for ten years. I watched the grief of parents over and over again. I experienced grief. I know it informed my parenting style – what I thought was important and what wasn’t. Somewhere along the way I was given a copy of Five Wishes – which is a booklet filled with questions to ask your loved ones prior to their death.

I used it informally with my mom. I have thought about the questions for myself.

I am wondering if we, as practicing abolitionists, should have a conversation about abolition as it relates to this question with our friends and families and partners. I think we should talk about this as community. This is the real work, right? This is where we have to practice what we preach in the MOST unimaginable way.What would you wish in the event of the unspeakable happening? What would you want your community to do?

Punishment is so easy. Vengeance seems so simple.What world am I trying to create? What am I willing to commit to? How much of an outsider am I willing to become?

Jordan was buried today. RIP Jordan Edwards. And peace to your family.


**The image I used for the cover of this post is from Chicago artist Sylvia Gonzales. It is a part of a series of free downloadable Restorative Justice posters.



One thought on “Promises to Keep

  1. this is a beautiful loving testament to the work that must be done, the ongoing work–i am inspired to look beyond anger and forgiveness as the beginning and end of a process


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s