It’s been an honor working with Richard and Ursula Walker, whose son’s gang-related murder we acknowledged in A Walk for Christopher on April 30th (Click HERE for media coverage). Through my activist and mission-oriented friend, Jill Shook, Ursula and Richard have agreed to become trained facilitators for the Parent Project. These classes help parents whose children have become affiliated with gangs de-affiliate. Ursula and Richard are feeling empowered to make a difference in their community because the community has helped them see they have a role to play. I am also connecting Ursula to a writing group, to be of aid to her while she writes her son’s story that will eventually be published in a book.
It’s critical that people like Ursula get encouragement, because too often they receive discouragement, often from both sides – from both law enforcement and the black community to which they rightfully belong.
In the beginning stages for the planning of A Walk for Christopher, Ursula had called her local Altadena Sheriff’s Department to let them know about it and they gave her the run-around. The man she talked to said, “Oh, well, you know, you’re going to need a permit for that and those take a long time to get and you probably can’t get it in time for April 30th.” That’s not an exact quotation, but you get the idea. Ursula received discouraging messages (it turned out no permit was required) while when the white minister calls (me), I am treated with respect.
Then this past Monday, Ursula was invited to be on a radio program with other mothers across the country whose children have been killed by community violence. One of the other mothers asked her, where are you from and are you of mixed race? The questioner actually came out and said it: “you don’t sound black enough,” insinuating Ursula didn’t belong with the other mothers who also lost their children to gang murder.
How enraging. It’s one thing Unitarian Universalists are known for – finding belonging for people who are told they don’t belong. Beloved community isn’t just for our church community alone – we transform the world when we extend that sense of belonging to members of our larger community, providing creative connections that are meant to be. All that’s required is kindness, caring, a little time, and sometimes, just a pinch of audacity.
-Rev. Hannah Petrie