Updated: Oct 14, 2018
It was nearly eight in the morning, but the night still pulled on the sun as if to hide it. I believe that is often how darkness and light work together -- there is a pushing and pulling between such a great contrast. Within that great tension of contrast, there is often a war waged; an attempt to diminish the other. But here is what I have learned -- While it is easy to get “swallowed up,” by such a dense darkness, light exists in those miniscule yet magnificent sparks of hope we hold. In the words of the musical genius, Ryan O’neal of Sleeping at Last, “Darkness exists to make light truly count.”
"Darkness exists to make light truly count."
On October 5th, 2018, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas executed their plans to protest at three different locations in Genesee County, Michigan: Grand Blanc High School, Southwestern Classical Academy, and U of M Flint. Their main reason for causing such ruckus, is their very outspoken disapproval and condemnation of homosexuality. In 2016, A transgender boy landed a place on homecoming court at Grand Blanc High School. Of course, Westboro Baptist Church, (notorious for their widespread condemnation of anything they disagree with) found it necessary to travel nearly 900 miles to shed their darkness on a situation that happened two years ago. In like manner, at U of M Flint by 8:30 in the morning, they stood behind caution tape with their poster boards decorated with phrases from “God hates proud sinners,” to “Hell is eternal,” and anything in between.
It would be easy to focus on Westboro and how gut wrenching their hate is. I could spend hours writing about how disturbing their agenda is, how hurtful it is, and how dehumanizing it is. Yet, at the protest, Westboro was the last thing to watch despite their loudness, and “volume.” They had their signs, their songs of contempt, they had their vigor -- But they lacked something the counter side had.
They clutched their choice of weapon made of darkness and destruction, but we had an antidote of unity, of light, of love. Darkness is not silent, but light is louder. Light is standing arm to arm in a sea of strangers and holding space for each other’s truth. On that day, light looked like a jazz band drowning out Westboro’s deafening spiel of devastation. Light looked like a collection of people with differing beliefs, qualities, and characteristics, but still choosing to unite as one. Light was standing (and dancing) together in the face of hate, but choosing to channel our energy into something much greater -- rooting for each other.
I believe that when the sun makes its way into the ebony sky of the night, it is not preoccupied with the darkness that exists. When the sun rises, it is more focused on the light it can offer. Perhaps, light always wins because it never ceases to rise, regardless of how dark it may be. Maybe that’s how we overcome darkness too -- Framing the light by showing up, regardless of the density of darkness. Conversely, that is what I saw on that morning of the eighth of October. It was the breathing image of consuming darkness with light by pouring into what matters -- each other.
There could be pages on how disturbing the hate Westboro has for people who choose to own their truth. However, there would be more pages on how empowering and magical it is to stand up for each other and the beautiful product of equity and unity. I could write on the belittling, on the pain, on the hate, but I believe it is more productive and necessary to write about the magic that runs in our veins, prodding us to always, always fight for what is right.
On October 8th, nearing 10 a.m., the army of people began to disperse back into their routines, but with fuller hearts --And I can vouch that there was more conversation about the light that coursed through our souls, than that debilitating darkness on the other side of the street behind caution tape.
Light has a way of rising, of trying, of showing up, of driving out the darkness with a softness that hardness will never have the strength destroy.
This is what light looks like when it wins.
Sveta Petty is one of our editors and this is her first blog post.
Jenifer Veloso is one of our editors and these photos were taken and edited by her.