Joy in protest: #OSU #Ferguson

Protesters crowd the sidewalk in front of Hale Hall on the Ohio State Campus

Druidry, for me, can never just be about trees. My Druidry can never just be about the self, about the individual’s relationship with her gods, his ancestors, the land around them. For me, to talk about these all these worthy subjects, to make offerings and prayers and care for the land and its creatures… if we are not also caring for our brothers and sisters of humanity, we might as well pack it all in and go home, because that negligence renders everything else meaningless.

I had the great joy of participating in a rally tonight in protest of the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and in protest of the system that failed to indict his shooter, Darren Wilson, an officer with the Ferguson Police Department. ‘Joy’ seems like an odd noun here, given the grief and outrage we’ve seen flowing out of Missouri and through African-American and allied communities around the nation. Certainly I wasn’t bubbling over with excitement to attend an event marking such a horrific set of circumstances; I went out of a sense of obligation.

Protesters crowd the sidewalk in front of Hale Hall on the Ohio State Campus

Many of the Celtic gods are invested in the the health/sovereignty/continuation/victory of the tribe. It’s a very valuable concept for Iron Age Europe, the tribe, but in 21st Century America, tribalism is all too alive, and its effects are almost uniformly harmful. We see this in the conflicts between the tribe of the rich and the tribe of the poor, of the political left and the political right, of the tribe of men and the tribe of women. We see it most glaringly, today specifically, in racial conflicts, where by and large interpretations of Michael Brown’s shooting, of the violent clash between the community of Ferguson and various law enforcement entities, and of the protests in the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson can be tied to racial identities. The tribal deities of Celtic Europe call to me and many, and yet we recoil at the xenophobia tribalism brings with it in our century. Somehow, we have to resolve that tension.

How? Claim a new tribe. I’m a white man, but I’m not terribly interested in a tribe of white men. Tonight at Ohio State, a crowd gathered to protest racial injustice and a legal and economic system that methodically oppresses members of our communities because they don’t happen to look like me. The rally was organized and led by members of Alpha Psi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, and Phi Beta Sigma — three African-American fraternities — but the crowd was far wider: students, faculty, and staff across races, genders, and backgrounds. I’d like to claim that tribe, of people of goodwill and hope and outrage and peace.

#OSU #Ferguson protesters in front of Thompson Library

And the youth of this tribe! That’s where I found my joy. I came out of obligation to this community of outrage, but I left buoyed by the young organizers’ spirits. Certainly there was stillness and purpose in four and a half minutes of silence as we stood stretching across 12th Ave. in front of the Hale Black Cultural Center. Certainly there was fervor in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” But even as we wound solemn through campus sidewalks chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!,” even as a voice from a dorm window called out “Go home!” during a prayer, there was an ebullience from the students who made up the greatest part of the crowd, a sense that their time for change had come. That joyful purpose spilled out of the crowd and into the streets (and onto social media, which I’ve included in this post).

May they be correct. May their hearts and all of ours be raised up by our common strength. May we emerge from this darkness scarred by adversity, but undaunted in joy. May all the Gods bless and support our aim, and may we fight with their strength for the safety and worth of every member of our marvelously varied community as we unite in struggle.


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