Centuries of institutionalized racism contributed to the successive shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by white policemen. It will take decades of work — work, not just the passing of time — for all of us to be judged by the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin.
Still, I keep returning to the time between the untimely deaths of these two men. Something about those spaces, hindered as they may be by hindsight — the 17 minutes between planes hitting the Twin Towers, the 104 days between the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, the 16 months from White Bronco to Black Not Guilty — crystalize like a pause between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder.
Here are some of the things that happened in the hours between the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile:
An unlikely group of young people traveled through time together. Fourteen teens from both coasts spending two weeks in Detroit through the American Jewish Society for Service (staying at the old Temple Beth El building at Woodward and Gladstone) joined Summer in the City’s Junior Volunteers, the middle school students from Northwest and Southwest Detroit they had been serving alongside, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
In pairs, they explored “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture” — starting in the cradle of human civilization, traveling across the Atlantic, through the Underground Railroad and Great Migration to the elections of Coleman Young and Barack Obama.
Tess Parr, who graduated from Bloomfield Hills High School and moved to Detroit to attend Wayne State this time last year, prepped a mural for AJSS and the JVs (her former Clark Park campers) to paint together the following day at Hart Plaza, a historic destination on the Underground Railroad and current home to both festivals and homeless people.
Michiganders continued to set off all variety of fireworks.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft steadied its orbit around Jupiter. After traveling for five years and nearly 2 billion miles, Juno arrived — “looking for clues,” according to the New York Times, “that might tell how the planets came together in the early history of the solar system.” At $1.1 billion, the mission cost about as much as the new Minneapolis Vikings Stadium, two-thirds of which is being shouldered by Minnesota taxpayers.
Thousands of auto manufacturing employees and their families, including my wife and kids, left town during the annual shutdown and model-year changeover. Judah and Phoebe went tubing, got ice cream from Milk and Honey in Traverse City and called to express their disappointment that I wasn’t driving back up for another day.
Matthew Stafford was spotted at the Bloomfield Township Costco. He was buying toilet paper.
Charles Felton got a bike so he could ride from his home in Highland Park to a community center in Hamtramck, where he works to mentor young people through a free summer enrichment program.
Two faith groups collided peacefully in Hamtramck’s Veterans Park. Area Muslims gathered for the Eid al-Fitr festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, where the Negro League’s Detroit Stars once played. Their celebration blended with that of another group in ceremonial garb — 4,500 fans of the Detroit City Football Club there to see their team play in newly renovated Keyworth Stadium. Charles was there, as were many of his campers from the neighborhood.
Dyrel Johnson — a black Detroiter, husband and father, fresh off the Stagecrafters production of Dreamgirls, who works to empower young people in the city through buildOn, a community service organization — marked his birthday without celebrating it.
Families converged along the Detroit River, their children running through the fountains outside the Renaissance Center, before the sun set behind the Ambassador Bridge at 9:12 and the Riverwalk closed at 10 p.m.