Michelle Higgins is a woman who has been broken, assaulted, bruised and hurt in the deepest ways. She has had her life, and the lives of those she loves, threatened by her assailants. And yet, she fights on. She refuses to back down on her believes. “Even if it kills me, this work is important and must be done.”
Michelle Higgins, a #BlackLivesMatter activist and pastor, was scheduled to come to Calvin to discuss this movement. You can imagine everyone’s confused looks when, rather having a person standing on the stage, there was a giant screen. We were informed that Michelle Higgins would be Skyping in, as opposed to being present. I was slightly annoyed. After all, I had asked my professor if I could skip half of my class for this. How could she not have even bothered to show up?
However, my self-centered self quickly melted away when she told us the reason she wasn’t there. She was detained at the airport on her way to Grand Rapids, presumed to be a terrorist or someone trying to maliciously spread a disease (due to marks on her skin from a sickness she had been battling previously). They stripped her and assaulted her, and made her feel utterly worthless. Though I wished she was there in person, this story was an all-too-real reminder of how necessary her discussion was.
From the beginning, she warned the audience, “If you choose activism of any kind, then you are in fear of danger.” She then moved on to her larger explanation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and what it really signifies. She constantly receives flack for supporting black lives instead of all lives. However, Higgins challenged the audience to look at statistics of mass incarceration to realize that we cannot begin to fight for all lives until we first fix the problem of the most marginalized. In our society, “blackness is, in itself, a weapon.”
She then moved on to discuss the American church as a whole. Her largest criticism of the American church is its foundation on American individualism.
“We fail to experience God in community.” We are a people based on our resumes and our capitalist culture. If one family in every church chose to adopt a child in the foster care system, there would still be double the amount of families left over to adopt more children.
And yet, we don’t care. We don’t care because we’re comfortable. Rather, we “sit in our prayer closest and walk in our own personal faith” and don’t act as the community we should. Higgins challenged the audience to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on the lives of others. If you “disarm yourself of yourself, you may find that God has a better ‘you’ in mind.”