Learning from Laughter and the Trees: He Comes with the Mountains

Cedar at the Poor People’s Campaign action on June 18 in Detroit.

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

“You have rocks in your bag.”

Stunned, I said, “it’s possible. I have kids.” I searched frantically through my bag that I had carefully packed that morning in hopes of getting quickly through security at the 36th District Court before court. I tried to gloss over the contraband tics tacs and pencil I had hidden at the bottom- necessities for keeping a 2-year-old silent in the court room that day. I can’t find anything. They wait, “Check another pocket.” Sure enough, there in the front, I find them. I pull out hands filled with mountain stones, Detroit River rocks, and pine cones all covered in sand that pours through my fingers. I hand them over to the security guard who doesn’t flinch as I apologize and she heads for the trash can.

I pick up Cedar and we head for the court room. I am struck by the moment. Is it yet another example of the ways this place strips dignity, where the dehumanization goes as far as forbidding pens and pencils? Here too the earth is kept out?

As we wait for the elevator, I smile at the comedy of errors in that moment and realize that actually I had built an altar on that conveyer belt.

Cedar and I squeeze onto the bench filled with supporters. Silently, I open my now lighter bag and hand out tic tacs as we both listen. In a legal system controlled by the same power and money that leads the “come back” of Detroit, we were listening to stories of the people who never left- those who are losing their homes, who are having their water shut offs, who take 4 buses to get to the doctor’s appointment, or who can’t even sleep on the benches in the parks because they have been dismantled. We held these stories sacred before the bench. That is why we shut down Dan Gilbert’s headquarters that day and stood in front of the Q- Line, a train that used an enormous amount of tax dollars to serve only those with means while the rest of the city faces tax foreclosures. And we will continue to bring those stories as seven folks from this group will take this to a jury trial. #Gilbert7

So, yes, that day, I came through the security system with a bag full of earth carefully collected by a child’s fingers. A child who had brought such joy and patience through months of the Poor People’s Campaign keeping me company at nonviolence trainings, on my back as arrests were made, and playing at my feet as bond was posted. Here today he comes again, this time to court and he brings sacred gifts. He brings with him the mountains and the river. We laid it down as a reminder that “we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

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