The dying cry of George Floyd in Minneapolis, on July 16th, 2020, was heard in Tuam, Ireland. The cruel story of the killing of George Floyd in the USA made international news. The last utterance of this black man was that he could not breathe, while a uniformed white policeman put his knee to his neck. It led to international headlines and one of its consequences was the formation of Tuam Embracing Diversity (TED).
Chairperson of TED, Aoife Nic Craith said, “The year 2020 has so far been one of upheaval — politically [and] socially…community support, integration and solidarity has never been so vital.” Other members, Mary Ryan and Agnes Curley, are aware that it is not enough to look at the faults of others. We need to examine our own hearts also. For this reason, TED has linked this racist action with our own Irish attitude to the Travelling community. Travellers may not be subject to similar violence, but they face discrimination on a regular basis.
The title question, who are we if not kin, opens the human heart, (calling it to stretch far into the beyond. “Remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13: 2). We humans sometimes allow our fears of the other to quench our hospitality. That which is different can be interpreted as a threat to our security. Enlightenment can come with the recognition that we are indeed kin.
Members of TED, Mary Ryan and Agnes Curley march in Tuam Square
Photograph by David Burke
TED responded simply and directly by organising an event to commemorate August 28th, 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. made the famous speech, I have a Dream. The Tuam event, as it expressed its dream, was facilitated by Dr. Ebun Joseph, who raises awareness about racism in Ireland. One speaker was Mercy Sister, Agnes Curley, who spoke of her nephew and his experience of witnessing racism as a child. Another speaker was Charles Ward, who is a member of the Travelling Community. Charley shared how acceptable he is in USA society, in contrast to the discrimination he encounters in Ireland. A featured musician was TED member Leo Moran, of the music group, The Saw Doctors. The event concluded with the singing of We Shall Overcome, led by mezzo soprano Jean Healy Joyce.
TED followed up with a silent walk on the following Sunday in the main square of Tuam. This will be repeated after the COVID crisis has passed.
Table of Mercy by Ann Reddington rsm and Maureen Murphy rsm (GB Union)
Who are we if not kin?
Where is the Table where we could sit together?
See us – the different – sitting as one,
Halo-ed and held by our only common identity: ‘HUMAN’,
By our one shared place – this green but groaning Earth…
Suzanne Ryder rsm