We are witnessing protests that have morphed into riots from coast to coast. The predictable result of a trifecta of unemployment, fear and oppression, aggravated by three months of isolation and uncertainty due to the pandemic. The horrific video of George Floyd’s last breath at the hands of a police officer has ignited the tinder box that is our country right now. May peace prevail.

We desperately need strong, wise and loving leadership to move us in the right direction. We need role models for love, inclusion and respect. Each one of us: white, black, brown, golden, or multi-ethnic can take a stand in our own families, communities, churches and at work. No one person can change our culture of hate and bigotry to love and harmony. We have been at this far too long. It is time for immediate change. May peace prevail.

In March of 1965, my father, Rev. Richard Dickinson, joined unarmed protesters in Selma, Alabama, who were marching to Montgomery to ensure African Americans would be free to vote without harassment. They were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of non-violent resistance who said, “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” 

Their peaceful protests were met by billy clubs, tear gas and arrests. Most of the protesters scattered when sprayed with tear gas but one young man of color stood still, facing the police, his foot on an empty tear gas canister. He clapped and sang, “We Shall Overcome,” even with tears streaming down his face from the gas. Although my father didn’t know his name, he never forgot that courageous young man.

One of Dad’s friends from seminary, Welton Rotz, was not only a minister but an artist. Dad gave Welton a tear gas canister that he brought back with him from the protests and described the young demonstrator who had best captured the spirit of peaceful resistance in his mind. Welton created an exceptional sculpture as a tribute to that young man. After a brief appearance at the seminary, the sculpture has been displayed prominently in my Dad’s house. One of the many stories my Dad taught us that shaped my childhood, was the story of this brave young man.

How can we show up in the same courageous way in our current crisis? I am inspired by leaders who have a positive and life-affirming message for all of us like, former President Obama who recently tweeted, “…It falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station-including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough jobs the right way, every day- to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”

Our path to peace and understanding will not be paved by riots, destruction, and vandalism. Let us walk together peacefully. Let us envision a future without hate. Let us continue a dialogue for better understanding. Let us teach our children to stand for peace and to resist hate. Let us use our vote for change this November.

For George. For all People of Color. For our country. May peace prevail.

My father (second row left) during Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965.