Honoring Sacred Souls: The Shooting in Buffalo and the Image and Likeness of God
Aaron Salter, 55, was a retired Buffalo police officer and the security guard at Tops Supermarket. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Ruth Whitfield, 86, was a wife and mother. Her son was a former Buffalo fire commissioner. Her husband resides in a nursing home. Ruth left the nursing home after a visit with him and went to the Tops Supermarket. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Pearly Young was a 77-year-old mother, grandmother, and missionary who ran a local neighborhood food pantry for 25 years. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Katherine Massey, according to her sister, “was a beautiful soul.” Katherine was 77 and a writer for the Buffalo News. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Haywood Patterson, 67, served a local congregation as a deacon. Haywood welcomed those who needed transportation to the grocery store. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Celestine Chaney was a grandmother of six and had one great grandchild. Celestine was 65 and a cancer survivor. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Roberta A. Drury, 32, was described by her friends as caring, happy, and full of life. She would often shop for groceries for her adoptive brother who was recovering from leukemia and lived just down the street from the store. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Margus D. Morrison was 52. His companion describes Margus as someone who loved his kids and his job as a bus aid for First Student. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Andre ManKneil was originally from Auburn, NY. He was murdered on his son’s third birthday. Andre was 53. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Geraldine Talley was engaged to be married and anticipating the birth of a grandchild. Geraldine was 62 and one of nine siblings. Made in the image and likeness of God.
Ten beautiful souls were violently murdered by an 18-year-old white supremacist Saturday, May 14, 2022. Hearing the news and learning that the victims were of African descent was heartbreaking—again. Seeing their names, photos, and reading brief descriptions of their lives gave rise to both emotional connection and feelings of profound grief. Another intentional act of violence was enacted on innocent, valuable, and beloved people created in the image and likeness of God. These were mothers, grandmothers, aunts, siblings, brothers, fathers, uncles, sons, daughters, and members of a larger community beyond Buffalo, NY. Stolen by racist hate.
In these murders, we cannot help but hear echoes. Historical memories of terror lynching, beatings, and murders in Birmingham, AL, Wilmington, NC, and Tulsa, OK. Saying the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Remembering another domestic terrorist act that took place on June 17, 2015, when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, murdered nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. All acts of violence enacted on beloved people created in the image and likeness of God.
Horrific acts of violence in African-American communities are too numerous to count. In this moment, many African-American communities are feeling unsafe, anxious, and fearful. Going to buy groceries is a ritual and a necessity. The grocery store is often a place where you see neighbors, exchange hugs, and share stories of daily life and family events. It should not be a place to take your last breath. Saying “Stop the Hate” will not stop white supremacists from purchasing guns, army gear, and artillery-style weapons. Not only will they continue to believe they are being replaced, but they will also target schools, playgrounds, family gatherings, malls, and venues where African Americans normally feel safe and secure from outsiders disrupting peaceful gatherings and community celebrations.
White Americans cannot respond with shock and awe at the killing of African Americans. White Americans can no longer ignore the face of domestic terrorists and white supremacists because the reality is the shooters belong to white America. Christians claiming to love all people can no longer believe their skin color is superior to Black and Brown people; it is not! And Christians with good intentions can no longer quote Habakkuk 1:2 and ask, “How long, O Lord, how long?” waiting on God to address acts of violence enacted on beloved people created in the image and likeness of God.
Enough is enough. Now is the time.
Now is the time to protect and honor Black Lives! See Black Lives! Affirm, protect, and stand with African-American communities before the next white supremacist attack.
Now is the time to prioritize legislation advocating for bans on assault weapons and implement stricter gun laws across all ages.
Now is the time to organize and engage in voting rights advocacy in federal, state, and local municipalities.
Now is the time for white Christians to dismantle racism and eradicate the white savior mentality.
Now is the time to learn, understand, and teach others about systemic racism.
Now is the time to provide culturally responsive approaches to education.
Now is the time to decolonize Christianity.
Now is the time center lectionaries written by Black women Bible scholars and theologians.
Now is the time to embrace, celebrate, and learn about the historical and contemporary value of God’s beloved people of African descent.
No more excuses. No more waiting. No more hiding. No more performing. No more empty prayers. No more ignorance. No more silence. The beautiful souls of these beloved people made in the image and likeness of God demand it.
Take Action – Reflect, Pray, and Act:
- Read Derecka Purnell’s powerful article after the shooting in Buffalo, “Why Do White Supremacists Want to Kill Black People?” Purnell provides an important analysis regarding the shooter and response by police after the shooting.
- Spend time praying with the Say Their Names – No More Names online exhibit created by Stanford University Libraries.
- Support VOICE Buffalo in their on-the-ground efforts to bring about racial justice or partner with Black Love Resists Rust and SURJ who are supporting those directly impacted by the racist violence of policing and incarceration by creating a political home for Black and Brown folks in Buffalo, NY who are committed to an abolitionist future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Dr. Velda Love is the Lead for Join the Movement toward Racial Justice Campaign and Minister for Racial Justice for the United Church of Christ.