No matter how many times I see the tears and hear the cries of mothers who have senselessly lost their children to violence, I never become immune to that pain. The lamenting wail of a mother who must come face-to-face with the reality of burying a child who was birthed from her womb is a sound that causes my spirit to cringe.
Tragically, over the past several years, I have heard this sound all too often, and all too often I have felt helpless while witnessing such agony.
I recently heard that sound again from Shianne Norman. Norman is the mother of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan. Lloyd was struck in the head and killed by a stray bullet when a gunfight broke out during a charity basketball game in the Bronx.
Norman’s pain assaults that which seems rational or logical, for there is nothing normal or reasonable about the insanity that has now become a part of her story. She must now forever live with a traumatizing memory that will not be easily healed. Her son is gone and tougher gun laws and criminal indictments will not bring young Lloyd back.
The horror of children dying in the streets has become so common that I fear that many people in urban communities throughout this country have become desensitized to the trauma. Bloodstained concrete has become part of the cultural canvas in many neighborhoods. Those who live in these traumatized spaces must constantly learn to navigate through territories where boundaries have been drawn in blood.
Something has to change. There has to be a new narrative that gives birth to the hopes and dreams of this generation, because our communities are filled with too many stories that have been shaped by misery and penned in pain.
How much longer will we allow people with means to sit idly by while indiscriminate bullets fly and children die? How much longer will we allow gunshots to form the melody of cryptic lullabies that escort our children to nightmares? How much longer will we occupy front row seats and witness the deterioration of the spirit of our communities? How much longer will we remain silent while our children become casualties of nihilistic wars of despair and dread? When I say “we,” I do not speak in general terms. I speak to my colleagues in ministry who have been called to be pastors.
In many urban centers like Harlem, churches abound and many churches occupy space, but now the community must feel their presence. We can no longer allow pseudo-territorialism and reckless egos to hinder the kind of work that can participate in the transformation of our most traumatized communities. The walking wounded in our communities need prophets who speak truth to power, not charlatans who utter opinions for profit.
I do not speak judgmentally or in condescending tones, but this is a battle, and as the Apostle Paul reminded us in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?”
Pastors, we are the trumpets and, in this season, the soldiers cannot afford uncertain sounds. Children are dying, mothers are crying, people are losing hope and the trumpets must now sound the alarm.
I do not seek to romanticize the role of pastors or churches in alleviating the plight in our communities, for I realize that churches and pastors cannot do it alone. It will take collaborative, sustained engagement from many segments of our communities. However, as a pastor, I speak to other pastors. I know there are many churches and many pastors doing great work, but now is the time to come together, transcend our differences and be about the business of liberation and transformation. Our communities are waiting!