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Healing through protest: How one reporter grieved along with strangers at a prayer vigil

These are the lessons a grieving reporter learned from the George Floyd vigil at the Lincoln Memorial.

WASHINGTON — My heart was already heavy as I woke up Sunday morning. Then my family received news that our matriarch, my husband's great aunt Elizabeth Sampson, passed away peacefully. She was 107 years old, and we called her Aunt Love. It was indeed the love she had for her family that helped them escape a dangerous situation in Jim Crow Alabama. Her father, Samuel Mason Bacon, was killed in 1948, ironically, at the hands of police. 

She did not make headlines, but Aunt Love was our civil rights hero. 

So, it was with the spirit of Aunt Love and the support of my family's prayers, that I went downtown prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. And that is what I saw at the Lincoln Memorial -- people making the best of a horrible situation.

RELATED: Healing circle, prayer vigil held at Lincoln Memorial in memory of George Floyd

Credit: Northeastern Univ. School of Law's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project

I first met up with Mia Price who was searching for answers in a healing circle outside the Lincoln Memorial.  

"I never thought I would be as hurt politically as what happened with Trayvon Martin as I am today," she said. "It keeps going on. I don't know what to do." 

Her cousin, Misha Robinson, organized the healing circle that grew from a few phone calls. Now, they plan to have healing circles every Sunday at 3 p.m. on Lincoln’s lawn. 

"When we realize that we all lost a life, we're all in pain - not just black people - then we can start a different conversation," Robinson said. "It's not up to black people to figure out how to solve the police brutality issue. It's not up to black people to figure out what to do about racism and systematic oppression. It's up to all of us because it affects all of us." 

A 9-year old caucasian boy was among the vigil participants. His name was Malcolm, he said, after famed Civil Rights leader Malcolm X.  

"I felt angry and sad about all the things going on in the world," Malcom said.  

But after attending the healing circle Malcolm said he felt better.  

"I learned it doesn't matter what color your skin is to help your community," he said. 

And while they prayed for healing, others celebrated milestones. Several high school graduates in cap and gown and prom dresses were posing for pictures.  

"Just find good in things even though there's a whole lot wrong going on," said one student.

As I was interviewing the girls, I heard shouts coming from a large group making their way towards the monument. Nearly 200 people marched up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a rally and prayer vigil for George Floyd and the other lives lost. Demonstrators called for common sense police reform, action at the voting booth, and peaceful protests. Pastors prayed and activists spoke. One young lady used sign language to rally the crowd, as an interpreter conveyed her message.

"Society has come to a breaking point," she signed, "We are all human. Every day we are going through this struggle, we feel each other’s pain. We see each other crying in the streets. It is time for this to end!"

One mother told me she was there to represent all the mothers who’ve lost children to violence and who feel marginalized by society, 

"It's really upsetting, really hard, but you know, we get through it," she said. "We come out here and talk to other people. I love being around other people who are working towards the same thing." 

She told me she grew up in Washington attending rallies with her 1960’s activist mother.  She brought her two young children with her to Sunday’s rally who colored and held up protest signs.  

"They know not all police are bad, but they need to be prepared not all police are like their cousin," she said, explaining that they have MPD officers in their family.

As the sun set, the crowd cleared, hoping someday soon the pain, anger, and frustration would lead to positive change.

Everyone will process the death of George Floyd differently. Some head to the front lines to protest, some stay home and pray, others work in small groups and organize. We don't all need to be heroes or make headlines, but are called to act. And like Aunt Love, we can work quietly and bravely to protect and lift each other up – with love.

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