Ms. Lyles

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

I don’t think her name could possibly have been said in her lifetime as many times as it was said tonight. The number of times we all repeated it. The number of us that there were.

The police had the good sense to not be there.

A tragedy breaks a people. A murder breaks a community wide open. And while I don’t know exactly what love is, there is love in the molten core of a person, and that burns even hotter at the core of people. People together.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

We chanted her name hundreds of times, and I still don’t know if it’s Ch- like change or Ch- like chartreuse.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

There was an old black woman. She used a walker with wheels on it. There was a sense that she was mother to the mother who was shot. I can’t say for sure. But she walked down the parted Red Sea of people, and keep looking out, saying “Look at all the people. I can’t believe all the people.” We were then a procession behind the woman.

Say her name. Charleena.

The woman from the city council spoke. She is a truth teller. The people see that.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

This vigil was at the apartment complex where Charleena died. There’s a playground there. Kids were playing. Martin’s dream is partially realized. While we were saying her name, there were kids of numerous stripe playing together there, while we also stood and calmly, emphatically demanded justice.

Say her name. Charleena.

You can’t really have justice when children step over their mother’s dead body to get out the door to their home.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

I’d cut enough roses for each of us to have one to give. But there were too many people there to be able to place them at a shrine to her, that I can only imagine exists. Our small group divided. A child needed to go to bed. We continued to listen, and then we processed, and then we marched.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

Roses still in hand, we marched through the park, and turned right up the street that I live on. A woman, dressed up, stood in the middle of the road, holding sunflowers in store plastic, smoking a cigarette, holding back from crying, and directing traffic.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

I turn around and go to her. “Are you giving or receiving flowers?” I ask. “Because I couldn’t get close enough to give the ones I brought.”

“They’re for giving. I couldn’t get close enough either.”

“Would it be possible to have mine join yours?”

“Yes. That’s very sweet.” Tears were close to her eyes.

“You look like you could use a hug. Would you like a hug?”

“Yes.”

And just before the solstice, a white man and a black woman hugged and joined flowers in the middle of the street.

It’s 2017. That shouldn’t be as Goddamn special as it is.

Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.
Say her name. Charleena.

I don’t know what love is. But I know a mother died, and the baby inside her died. How was thirty years her lifetime?

Charleena called for help.

Say her name. Say it from your molten core.

 

Say her name.

MF_Vigil01
Photo by Megan Farmer of KUOW

Consider making a donation to the go fund me campaign for Charleena’s children.

Scroll to top