Here is a small clip and a small transcript.
A few weeks ago, I attended a service at First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the LA Riots. After a jury acquitted 4 police officers of beating Rodney King-a beating that was filmed and flashed around the world- Los Angeles erupted. I remember the sense of despair and powerlessness in watching one of America’s greatest cities engulfed in flames.
But in the middle of that desperate time, there was a miracle: a baby born with a bullet in its arm. We need to hear about these miracles in these desperate times because they are the blessings that can unite us when some in the world try to drive a wedge between our common humanity and deep,
abiding faith. And this story, too, starts with a baby.
We learned about this child from a doctor named Andy Moosa. He was working the afternoon shift on April 30 at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood as the second day of violence was exploding in the streets.
He told us about a pregnant woman who had been wearing a white dress. She was in Compton and on her way to the supermarket. Where the bullet came from nobody knew. Her sister-in-law noticed a red spot in the middle of her white dress and said that I think you’ve been shot. The bullet had gone in, but it had not exited. The doctor described the ultrasound and how he realized that the bullet was in the baby. The doctor said, “We could tell it was lodged in one of the upper limbs. We needed to get this baby out so we were in the delivery room.”
And here’s the thing: the baby looked great. Except for the swelling in the right elbow in the fleshy part, it hadn’t even fractured a bone. The bullet had lodged in the soft tissue in the muscle. By God’s grace, the baby was fine. It was breathing and crying and kicking. They removed the bullet, stitched up the baby’s arm, and everything was fine. The doctor went on to say that there’s always going to be a scar to remind that child how quickly she came into the world in very unusual circumstances.
I’ve been thinking and praying about that story. I’ve been thinking that there’s always going to be a scar there, that doesn’t go away. You take the bullet out. You stitch up the wound and 15 years later, there’s still going to be a scar.
Many of the folks in this room know just where they were when the riot in Los Angeles started and tragedy struck the corner of Florence and Normandy. And most of the ministers here know that those riots didn’t erupt over night; there had been a “quiet riot” building up in Los Angeles and across this country for years.
If you had gone to any street corner in Chicago or Baton Rouge or Hampton — you would have found the same young men and women without hope, without miracles, and without a sense of destiny other than life on the edge — the edge of the law, the edge of the economy, the edge of family structures and communities.
Those “quiet riots” that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths. They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold and young people all across this country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get any better. You tell yourself, my school will always be second rate. You tell yourself, there will never be a good job waiting for me to excel at. You tell yourself, I will never be able to afford a place that I can be proud of and call my home. That despair quietly simmers and makes it impossible to build strong communities and neighborhoods. And then one afternoon a jury says, “Not guilty” — or a hurricane hits New Orleans — and that despair is revealed for the world to see.
Much of what we saw on our television screens 15 years ago was Los Angeles expressing a lingering, ongoing, pervasive legacy-a tragic legacy out of the tragic history this country has never fully come to terms with. This is not to excuse the violence of bashing in a man’s head or destroying someone’s store and their life’s work. That kind of violence is inexcusable and self-defeating. It does, however, describe the reality of many communities around this country.
And it made me think about our cities and communities all around this country, how not only do we still have scars from that riot and the “quiet riots” that happen every day-but how in too many places we haven’t even taken the bullet out.
Look at what happened in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit. People ask me whether I thought race was the reason the response was so slow. I said, “No. This Administration was colorblind in its incompetence.” But everyone here knows the disaster and the poverty happened long before that hurricane hit. All the hurricane did was make bare what we ignore each and every day which is that there are whole sets of communities that are impoverished, that don’t have meaningful opportunity, that don’t have hope and they are forgotten. This disaster was a powerful metaphor for what’s gone on for generations.
Of course, the federal response after Katrina was similar to the response after the riots in Los Angeles. People in Washington wake up and are surprised that there’s poverty in our midst, and that others were frustrated and angry. Then there are panels and there are hearings. There are commissions. There are reports. Aid dollars are approved but they can’t seem to get to the people. And then nothing really changes except the news coverage quiets down.
This isn’t to diminish the extraordinary generosity of the American people at the time. Our churches and denominations were particularly generous during this time, sending millions of dollars, thousands of volunteers and countless prayers down to the Gulf Coast.
But despite this extraordinary generosity, here we are 19 months later – or 15 years later in the case of LA — and the homes haven’t been built, the businesses haven’t returned, and those same communities are still drowning and smoldering under the same hopelessness as before the tragedy hit.
And so God is asking us today to remember that miracle of that baby. And He is asking us to take that bullet out once more.
Share your thoughts with me on this.