On Sunday morning I got up early to get ready for Sunday worship. Often it is my practice to check the news for a moment, to be aware of anything current happening before coming to the Fellowship building, rather than being surprised by the news after I’m there.
Checking the NPR news app on my phone, there was a big one: 9 People Dead in a Mass Shooting in California, the headline read. Shooting occurred at a Lunar New Year festival, was the subtitle. This is a breaking story.
I knew that this was Chinese New Year, more accurately called Lunar New Year. The horror of another mass shooting struck me—and the near-certainty in my mind that it was targeted: targeted against Asian Americans the way that nightclub shootings have been targeted against LGBTQ people. I imagined a white male shooter committing a hate crime.*
On my phone and I scrolled down a little farther. There was another story about the Lunar New Year, but this one was a video—a rap song, as the caption explained, created by elders in the Asian community in San Francisco. I clicked on it and watched the one-minute video.
The joy and spunk of these women in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, doing a rap that celebrates Chinese culture, and the Chinese-American experience in a real and light-hearted way, moved me to tears. Overwhelmed with emotion, I didn’t know if I was laughing or crying, and realized that it was both at the same time. My sadness and fear and anger, thinking of the families of victims of yet another shooting, brought tears of rage and despair. My joy, in seeing the hilarious video of elders celebrating a minority culture with pride and dignity and humor, brought tears of exhilaration and hope. Both types of tears were mixed and simultaneous.
And what was clear to me in that moment was this: the joy is a necessary answer to the violence. Joy and song and dancing and laughter give us resilience in a world of violence and hate crimes and mass shootings. It was then I knew that sharing the video during morning worship, as part of the children’s time in a worship service devoted to Elderhood, was the right thing to do. Joy is the message and joy is the way forward. A link to the video is here.
*As I learned (and we all learned) later, the shooter was a 72 year-old Asian American with personal ties to the dance hall where the shooting happened. Therefore the event is probably not characterized as a hate crime. The ultimate death toll was 11 dead and 9 wounded, and the gunman also killed himself when confronted by police.
May God bless the families of those who died in the Los Angeles Lunar New Year shooting. May God smile warmth and radiance and healing on those wounded in the attack.
God, you are Chinese; you are Asian; you are American; you are a dragon and you are a rabbit.
God, I hear you in the voices of the Grant Avenue Follies and their sacred, joyful, funny rap song. God, you are alive in their dancing and in the traditions they celebrate.
May the Year of the Rabbit bring good luck and peace to all of God’s creatures, with no exceptions.
Rev. Andrew (Drew) Frantz
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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