First, thank you for taking the time to be on the right side. As it has been in past times of tribulation, goodness needs nurturing and all of its related intentions need cultivation. Injustice must eventually, even if only in micro increments, yield to hopeful and persistent action. Time is fleeting but it is on our side.
This daily cadence is expanding the space for hope and hope creates space for meaningful change. But will it be worth it? Will our time here matter? I believe it will but, when it will, I really don’t know. What I do know is what I’ve been taught by the horrific terror of sudden loss. That is that we should not so quickly contest time. It has its own ideas. There is no morality in it. Simply algorithms, moments and logic. Best take full advantage of what’s been in the allocation. It is quite a bitch when it feels you’ve had enough!
I was never ready to have had enough! But here we are living in the shadows of a missing decade. Time is still passing but time then is not the same as time now. We still hold onto all that we had in the time before but it’s now set against the moment, by moment reminders of the reality after October 17th, 2010. I reflect often back to the words of the 15-year-old voice of DJ’s sister Amber, when looking at his lifeless and abused body, she said “he’s not gone, he’s just different”. Her wisdom reminds us that DJ is still in both. We keep him present. In that, we can find moments of gratitude amidst our painful and steely resolution, both rising from the ashes of our agony.
Even if we are not allowed the full harvest, the tilling and planting into the good soil of righteousness and justice, is worth it. But rest assured, we aren’t just sowing the seeds for future gleaners to harvest. We are, in this time, pressing into this urgent call to activation. We are letting our anger show, letting our hurt show, letting our cries by heard, letting our love permeate the hard exterior of hate. But it must be real, first internally and then for the movement.
Time and truth always converge and truth tellers meet there! In losing DJ, we have also gained. Our memories with him are the only profit we take from the time before but we value the accretive strength and power of this Martha’s Vineyard community. We’re still adding nutrients to the same old rotten soils of injustice, but were doing it with a renewed purpose, better equipment and an inspired sense of UJIMA, a collective sense of work and responsibility. All of the murdered sisters and brothers who welcomed DJ and whom DJ has welcomed, are proud of us!
Yet, time has also taught us that being woke, does not mean we are fully awake. That may take more time and we may need to keep sticking our knees in the mud to get even more raggedy. We cannot forget that institutions of hate are generally human by nature. If we are to change them, we have to keep working to change us! But we are so encouraged by the many well-meaning and well speaking people we’ve met along the way.
As we collectively steer this moment in a more just direction, our personal journeys are the most authentic and meaningful part of our progress. We too are sometimes institutions in ourselves that need changing. Good for all of you for getting this enough to show up. Our enlightenment is our export from and our import back to MV. And if story of our is any example, our routes will be tortuous. I and we still have much to learn about how our actions, bound by things like our nurturing, our history, our stories, effect how we relate to people of difference from our deeper places. So keep leaning into learning about those we have lost and about how we now must deal, in this transformative time with any baggage that might keep us from authentically living for them! Keep trying to make your difference felt in our time. Do something else wonderful today. Best take full advantage of what’s been in the allocation. Time is quite a bitch when it feels you’ve had enough!
This day, ten years ago my firstborn and namesake son, Danroy Henry Jr/DJ Henry was murdered. Today is the day my heart shattered when his heart stopped. I was never ready to have enough! We said then that there should never be another and yet in the decade since DJ’s murder at least 100 sons and daughters of fathers have been taken by violence in the US alone, committed by one who was sworn to protect and serve. Will our time here matter we ask again? I hope so! We have all had enough of those times!
What these moments have also shown me is that in times of great loss, there are no “good enough” words of regret. None that can return a treasured life of value to its rightful place amongst us. We don’t get do overs with lost loved ones. Sorry and settlements aren’t enough to undue the deprivation. Time is not offering more of herself. We own the memories and we carry the torment!
We can however, keep using our allocation to continue pressing into good change by owning our raggedy edges of self-awareness, actively listening and building coalitions of helpers who through these daily testimonies view the need for constructive social change as an absolute rather than a position to be defended. To get there we should live ours and alight their whole stories!
When loved ones are stolen, compassionate hearts rightly ache for the mothers. Angella’s loss is unique kind of pain. She was the very carrier of our first sons lost life. She bore the pains of childbirth and the immeasurable pain of our child’s celebration of life at the end of his earthly journey. Some of you can personally feel this loss, as mothers or adoptive mothers or someday mothers. The rest of us, have all this summer of illumination and with each bended knee, been imagining the unreachable depths of all of these mother’s losses.
Ache for the brothers, sisters and the fathers too. Not in a way that is competetive but in a way that is instructive. You see, to understand the full measure of the theft, one must endeavor to understand the full measure of the life and of the repercussions of the loss. These takings of life are hindrances to posterity. I am reminded of the powerful image of a beautiful little brown boy 5 or 6 –maybe he would have been DJ’s son. He was holding a sign of truth that read “Stop killing our fathers and then making fun of us for not having one”
This murder and its enablers, disrupt whole families, it and they steal traditions, it and they try to take reputations to cover their ill deeds. It and they take away mothers and fathers. It and they rob us of future generations and their contributions! In the moments when time and space may shift you away from this good place and good work, recall to your conscious the aching for the never born children and grandchildren. They die too!
So in the words of Dr MLK JR.
“shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”
Let’s use our time to leap, with our collective goodwill, into a deeper and hotter understanding of who it was that lived to help grow our stamina and sustain our activation!
If you are a loving and supportive adoptive or biological parent, I see you. If you are a Mom of your own or to others who have come to find the shelter and safety of your love, I see you. If you are a Nana, Papa, Gramps, Grams or the myriad other names assigned to generational parenthood, I see you. If you are two moms or two dads or beautifully co-parenting a new generation of loving and accepting humans, I see you!
To this community on this day of pain I say, thank you for seeing and being seen?
To be a Dad, for me was always a choice. My father and many others are fathers because a night of passion gave way to a biological reality. The mother’s pains of childbirth and even child rearing are well understood. The father is to play his role, provide, discipline, and teach. If he elects “Dad-Ship” he adds to this nurture, love, listening, caring but never ever should he expect to add mourning!
DJ called me every day when he was away playing football. He shared the good and the bad days. I hung on every word and he knew it. We did everything a dad and son could do together. If he could see me, he was with me. I remember one of the many times I literally saw his heart. I coached him until he got too good for my limited skills so DJ must have been 7 or 8. In a very competitive soccer match, his best sport, he made a beautiful move around a defender. A move so glorious that the defender stumbled and DJ ran him over. Proud dad moment. Open lane, clear goal but he didn’t score. Why? I asked him on the ride home what happened. He told me when the kid fell, he stopped his run, turned around and picked him up so that he could make sure he was ok. My assistant coaches were very upset, I was too, in that moment but he taught me that day. When I asked him later why he did what he did he said something to the effect that I didn’t want him to get hurt. My oldest son and his compassion in action!! Prouder dad moment! He cared about people, fairness, and his family. The DJ Henry Dream Fund exists to serve others now because we heard countless stories about DJ helping fund and equip teammates in need so they too could play a sport he loved. He always put us first. He was the best big brother to Amber and Kyle
Siblings and offspring don’t get to choose, they are chosen and their pain of losing a big brother is no less real. See them too!
Today’s point in time reflects for me lasts and firsts. The last day DJ and I held one another. The last time I could smell the narrows of his neck. Kiss his skin. Hear is laugh. Today also marks the last time we spoke living words to one another. “I love you, I love you too”
Today also marks the tenth year of the first day that we were thrust into this estrangement.
Time has its own ideas and we should take full advantage of what’s been in the allocation. No do overs in human loss, but we do get to “do against” when the circumstances of their taking need to rectification. So today is also the day that we remember the first day that as a full family, DJ there, Angella, Amber, Kyle and I here, we began our fight first for absolute truth and now for criminal convictions. Today is the day we remember not only why we kneel but also why we stand. Today is the day we honor not just his dying, but his living, by sharing his acts of compassion and kindness. The whole loss shows us the whole living. If only we had more time with him.
These unjust takings of human life leave for sisters, brothers, children, nieces, nephews, grandparents, spouses, partners, friends, moms and dads the deepest and darkest spirit holes. Like you, we are choosing to appreciate this fickle gift of time and we shall use it to amplify the voice of those who preceded our DJ and the hundreds who have followed him.
We choose to fight for our own well-being, for the care and safe keeping of those we love, for the healing of a divided land, for kids who can’t pay to play, for the justice DJ deserves, for the good people who are trying to change institutions and for hurting Dads. Through each random act of kindness performed on #DJHENRYDAY of service, we deposit a bit of the good back into the universe that was taken out of it on this day ten years ago.
Today let’s seed the world with a hopeful gratitude for time. The time we shared with DJ, one another and in reflection of all those taken. The time we’ve been given to fight for them. The time we have now have to finish the good works of their lives. The time to be together in this season of tumult. The time we have the breath!
Time: 8 minutes 48 seconds
Say his name:
Say the name of Dad’s
Shout his name
Shout the word Mom’s
Scream his name
Scream the name of siblings and children
Say his name
Photo credit – Creator: Chitose Suzuki | Credit: Boston Herald