Opinion: A prayer for transformational change

Tonya Allen

I thought a lot about what to say regarding George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor’s murders. These three acts, in a long line of brutality against black men and women, had me personally overwhelmed. Adrienne Maree Brown’s poem, “for George Floyd; fire” — “you on your knees but we the ones praying” — inspired me to write the following prayer to my Skillman Foundation family and community. For our people, for our country, for U.S.

Dear God,

Please let this time be the one in which the bough breaks. Let this be a point of no return for our country. Let George Floyd’s death not be in vain. Or Breonna’s. Or Ahmad’s. Or Trayvon’s. Or Michael’s. Or Eric’s. Or Botham’s. Or Sandra’s. Or the countless others over the generations that I cannot name, but who had names, families, hopes, dreams, and contributions to make in this world.  

Thank you for finally allowing all people to see the violent, sadistic nature of anti-black racism. Thank you for providing undeniable evidence so that this can no longer be ignored. Thank you for the technology, which taped the bad intent of an officer, who leisurely kneeled for nine minutes on the neck of a dying man. And for the tape of two men who hunted down a jogger like he was prey. Thank you for revealing the bystanders, who are complicit through their silence, blind eyes, excuses, and turned heads. Thank you for exposing it all. Many moan that things are getting worse, but Lord we know things are simply getting revealed.

Thank you for the young people who chant, “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” Please protect the protesters. Those who love this country enough to change her. Lord, please be with all who gather on the streets. Let them all see the humanity of each other. Just because it is a moment of change doesn’t mean it has to be a war. We don’t have to use bullets or tear gas. We don’t have to pull out militaristic measures. Protect our people. Protect our officers. Both can be done. And both are righteous.

Demonstrators walk down Woodward Ave. in Detroit, June 4, 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd.

Let us follow the young people. Young leaders like Stefan Perez, a 16-year-old from southwest Detroit, who led protests, de-escalated conflict and respectfully showed up for “his people and for his city.” Lord, I thank you for his innate leadership skills and the anointing on his life. Let us remember that there are many more Stefan’s in our city, who need us to believe in them. To create opportunities for them. To trust and prepare them as successors. Lord, as adults, we need to follow them and so does our country. 

Lord, let the police officers—who choose to carry signs, bend their knees in solidarity, and calm the people with melodic words of unity and peace—be serious about this moment. Let them stand against police brutality and anti-black bias when the world is watching and in the quiet hours when no one is recording. Let their public acts show up in their professional duties. Let their blue code be forever destroyed because their consciousness will not allow them to ‘go along, to get along.’

Let the many companies that have issued statements condemning police brutality and anti-black violence be truly committed. Let them mean it. Let them be prepared to work on this for the long haul, not just a season. Don’t let them become weary in well-doing.  

Please let the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors change. Let them move beyond saying words of ‘racial equity’ for accolades. Let them do the hard work to change their institutions so this moment is not a phase, but an inflection point.

Tonya Allen

Most importantly, let us not forget our children. Help them process this daunting world in a way that affirms the possibility of a new reality. Help our children who are afraid, and who pray, “I don’t want to be black if this is what happens to you.” Lord, don’t let them lose love for their identity because others have. Don’t let their innocence be completely stripped from them. Don’t let their blackness become the seminal determinant of their destiny.

Help parents as they help their children navigate this trauma. And help them to navigate their own. Give parents the peace to no longer sleep on the floor of their children’s bedrooms, guarding against the boogeyman, who is dressed as racism.

Lord, I plead with you for better leaders. Stronger, more compassionate leaders in politics, civic organizations, police departments, businesses, and homes. Equip us all to step into our power so others can step into theirs. Equip us with words, actions, practices, and love to be the leaders our fellow man deserves. By simply changing our worlds, we can change the world.

Lord, the enemy of justice is hopelessness. Lord, let us be hopeful at this moment. Let us heal the grievous wounds and agony of our country. Let this be the moment when the bough breaks. When we accelerate this inflection. When the world changes. When the pain is so deep that it is transformational. When we can bend the long arc of justice. 

Lord, help us. Lord, help U.S.

The full prayer can be read here.

Tonya Allen is president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation. She identifies as a Christian and relies on her faith during times of unrest. The Skillman Foundation respects and supports the religious beliefs and freedoms of its team members, grant partners, and the communities it serves.