Alternate Histories: 5/15, 5/27, 6/21

[These people spoke to me in Burnside Park on two different days.]


I just thank God. I just give thanks. So many things happened–so many things. I just look what the Lord has given me.

What are some of the things that you thank God for?

I thank Him for living, thank Him for waking me up, giving me a new day that I never seen before. Thank Him that I was able to get up this morning, put on my own clothes. If you go to the hospital, you see what those people have to deal with, you’re gonna be thankful. People need our prayers, our friendship.


I worrying about killing somebody, raping somebody, lying, cheating. I worry so much when people talk about other people–people always gonna talk. I pray to God to not let me worry about these things. I think about these things but I don’t do them. I try to think like God. I’m not God, but I try to think like him, I prefer to think like God than think like the Devil. These things that worry me, they coming from the thinking of the Devil. God thinks peace, peace, God don’t like raping, lying, killing people. But these bad stuff come to my mind. If I’m gonna preach, if I’m gonna witness, I gotta suffer.

Are there people you can pray with who can help you stay strong?

At the Providence Center–[names some people] help me in the name of Jesus.



In the days that followed, C did no one any harm, not even himself. The sound of voices praying in loud unison helped hold up the weight of his anger and his fear, the surge of voices praying in loud unison carried him past his urge to violence, like a wave. He felt aligned and not alone. His work at this stage was healing himself. He needed no one else to suffer for him.

In the weeks that followed, A prayed steadily when her heart was low, when her grief was great, when her way seemed dark. With the other people in her congregation, she prayed her anger into a tower. She prayed steadily through the fear of violence and gave thanks when the first offer of reparations came.

In the months that followed, the people of his church practiced insistence on C’s behalf. He accounted to them, and so did his landlords, his doctors, his neighbors. He began to hear the similarities between the divine in himself and the divine in others, to know he was important and necessary but not special. He grew able to see what others needed from him without resenting them.

In the years that followed, there were no fresh murders for A to mourn or to endure. She did not need to use her ingenuity for today’s survival; she was free to be more broadly ingenious. She was grateful for another day–grateful to God, not to an armed man or an insufficient law.

In the decades that followed, the houses of praise and grief and resistance found new ways to be hospitals, strategy rooms, nursery beds for plants and people, training grounds. In the centuries that followed, though they were not alone in this, they became arks; they became oases.

Doctor’s note: this alternate history was most instantly inspired by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.


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