Protest Erupts in Huntington, WV (#loverioting)

(This piece was shared by CBS News, among other various news and social media outlets.)

Well, the post-election protests have finally made their way to my hometown of Huntington, WV.

We’re always behind the times, but what took so long?

For you out-of-towners, I know that you’ve heard of our little neck of the woods.  Just yesterday we observed the bitter anniversary of the Marshall University plane crash—everyone seems to know about that.  We recently made national headlines by having nearly thirty drug overdoses in a single four-hour period.  The whole Kim Davis / gay marriage saga played out about an hour from here (sorry, Kentucky, that’s your headline, but we’re close enough that we had to suffer through it).  It also became national news yesterday when two Clay, WV officials (also about an hour from here) were goofy enough to show themselves on social media, one calling our current First Lady an “Ape in heels” and the other applauding the sentiment.

To the outside world, I bet we don’t look like the mecca of hope.  In fact, we get so used to reading our own press that it’s sometimes hard for us to imagine that a ray of light could shine out of our backyard.

However, the first protest has begun.

Just this past Sunday in church, we were discussing the topic of hope.  We were running a bit late, but Elizabeth had something that she wanted to share with our small group.

“I went for my usual run this morning,” she said, “and that often takes me by the mosque on Twentieth Street.”

I know this neighborhood well.  In college, Laura and I lived there in a slummy little house where the curtains moved when the wind blew; the upstairs neighbor’s dog would urinate and it would rain down through our ceiling.  Ah, good times.  In this part of town, it’s not uncommon to have your car vandalized, your property stolen, or come home to find a stranger passed out on your porch.

I’ve often wondered why the Muslim community picked this neighborhood for their mosque.

“As I was approaching,” Elizabeth continued, “I could see that someone had written graffiti all over the sidewalk outside.  I immediately thought, “Oooh, noooo.””

you-are-loved-2We all shared the sentiment.  In fact, a chorus of “Oooh, noooo” wafted up from our group.  We didn’t need to hear the rest of the story.  We knew the ending, all of us conjuring up images of the racial slurs and epithets that were cowardly left outside of a place where Muslims gather for fellowship and prayer.  We know our town and our people.  We’re quite aware of the small-mindedness and the ignorance out there.  As I said, we read our own press.

Though we didn’t need her to finish, Elizabeth continued.  Thankfully.  Because we were all wrong in our assumptions (as we so often are).

“As I got closer,” she said, her eyes glistening and a slight quiver betraying her jaw, “I could see that someone had taken sidewalk chalk and written in huge letters, ‘YOU ARE LOVED.’”

Wow.

A major blow has been struck right here in Huntington, WV.

YOU ARE LOVED.

you-are-lovedMake no mistake, friends, this was a cataclysmic protest.  No homes or businesses were looted.  No cars were overturned or set on fire.  No one was injured or lost their life.  But this deadly assault against darkness is more newsworthy than most of the fodder we consume on a daily basis.

YOU ARE LOVED.

This likely won’t make the national news because media outlets know that sensational negativity sells, but trivial tales of hope tend to wither on the vine and the newsstand.  We gobble up headlines that fuel the fire of whatever is already burning in our bellies.  Just this morning I was rolling my eyes at a journalist friend who shared a completely fictitious “news” story on social media.  Yes, a journalist sharing a made-up, sensational story—it happens.  I suppose if it fits the narrative that has him twisted up in angry knots, then the truth doesn’t matter too much.

Oy vey!

Still, the sidewalk-chalk headline on Twentieth Street shouts out a bigger truth:  “YOU ARE LOVED.”

welcomeandloved

For that very reason I’m asking you to share this with the people in your world.

YOU ARE LOVED.

We all need a breath of fresh air about right now.  For me, this is it.  I hope it is for you, too.  Breathe it in deeply, expand your lungs with the goodness of it, and then go fill your community with a new song.  Call it a love protest.  Actually, get dangerous and start a riot of love.

#loverioting

How’s that?  Is that newsworthy enough for you?

When I consider the person who scrawled this sidewalk manifesto (while the rest of us gnash our teeth over race, religion, and gender issues), I’m assuming it was an innocent, well-intentioned child with her tiny bucket of chalk.

However, a deep part of me hopes this assumption is also wrong.

I like to think it was a world-weary adult, fed up with the whole mess, who stepped out of the darkness with just enough childlike faith to believe that something so simple as loving your neighbor might actually be all it takes to make America great again.

YOU ARE LOVED.

Sincerely, Huntington, WV.

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41 thoughts on “Protest Erupts in Huntington, WV (#loverioting)

  1. I had the pleasure of delivering the World trade center steel to your town. And again return to see it’s dedication and soeak to the town people at the ceremony. A big dirty biker as most see me, but not there. I love this town, although 609 miles away, a part of my heart is always there. We loved all the people we met, and will again be returning next year on 9/11 to visit a town that welcomed us to warmingly. If there was work there in my trade set, I told my wife we would be moving. See you next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beau, I’m humbled by your kind words. Thank you. Your self-description as a “big, dirty biker” made me smile. Among my many “jobs”, I also play music in a “bar-band.” I get to spend time with a lot of “big, dirty bikers.” I have found some of the biggest, most genuine hearts in the biker community. I hope to meet you on your next visit. Be well, friend.

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  2. As a native of Huntington? With all the bad press we get here? I sobbed at the kindness. I know my friends and relatives never meant to unleash on our country such a beacon of hate and intolerance as Donald Trump, It just breaks my heart they’ve been fooled yet again and will suffer the worst for it,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand your passion, Shelly. Thank you for sharing. I’ve tried to avoid being political (and that’s hard for someone who has taught politics and government). As for who sits in the Oval Office … no matter who wins any election, we the people get to decide what kind of world we live in by how we treat the person in front of us. My neighbor and I cancel out each other’s votes in nearly every election, and we still love and take care of each other like family. In that respect, I am hopeful. America is great because of our people (and I know many incredibly loving, awesome people on both ends of the political spectrum). As Martin Luther King suggested, we drive out darkness with light. I’m just encouraging people to shine.

      Be well, friend. Blessings.

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  3. My father was from Huntington and I lived there myself, just briefly, as a kid. Still have family there. I love the city, and WV, and defend it often because I think it gets a bad rap from an ignorant few. Your story warms my heart, which still believes most people are good, generous and kind. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Leslie. We moved away for a while, but came back to raise our family here. I’m often humbled by the goodness around me–often from places I least expect it. Again, thanks for reading and sharing.

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  4. In your article you questioned why they chose such a deplorable neighborhood to build their mosque. If you research when they were looking for a location you will discover that they were not welcome in the white southeast hills neighborhood. Only the deplorable black Fairfield West neighborhood was an option for them. So don’t fool yourself about Huntingtonians being so accepting.

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Joyce. I’m well aware of some of the fear and ignorance out there. I’ve had my share of kicks to the teeth from the world’s cruelty. However, I still believe most people out there are ultimately good to the core. I choose to shine light into the darkness and celebrate it when others do. My band recently got to play music at a rally in Fairfield West. It was good to be there. As a child, I spent a lot of summers with my aunt who lived there; also my oldest son (now in college) played youth football with DC Express. There are many good people with tremendous, loving hearts throughout that neighborhood.

      I understand your frustration with intolerance. In fact, I’ve started to despise the word “tolerance.” I don’t think any of us want to be “tolerated.” We all want to be loved.

      Again, thanks for your comment. I do appreciate it.

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    • Joyce I think it’s best to just focus on the positive for once. Please refrain from placing negative light on any movement of positive. It’s not like the mosque was just built so I believe giving credit on how far this has come is what is the best thing to do now. But thank you for your participation anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for this. I visit Huntington every 3 months or so with a friend. I like your city a lot and I’m very great full that members of your community can show such support and that you wrote this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What about the assumption that a Trump voter wrote this and they aren’t mad because their candidate won? And no one is erasing it because everyone else in the neighborhood also voted Trump.

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    • I know someone who suggested that John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie wrote it while Prince and Elvis held the bucket of chalk. LOL. Who knows? I’m just grateful for the message.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you sharing.

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  7. Well written story! I tell you, I loved attending MU and Huntington citizens are wonderful people. I am from South Charleston. I’ve lived in Columbus and moved back due to actually, higher paying jobs in our fields (go, us LOL). All it takes is one person to make the world a bad place for a moment, and in this case one person cancelled out that “bad” and performed a written act of kindness! I shared this story and I also sent into several news sites. It’s needs to be shared with the world. This story left me with an overall feeling of peace. I’ve read it five times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was so nice to meet you. We’re home and getting caught up on things. I hope your travels were awesome! I’m excited to check out your stuff at inspiring change. Be well, new friends!

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  8. I only discovered you blog today. I was born and raised in West Virginia. Went to Huntington many times. My father went to college at Marshall after he got polio and needed to transfer from the rolling, step filled, hills of VA Tech to a flat campus that he could navigate with paralyzed legs. One of my dear high school friends moved to Huntington. So it’s a city close to my heart. Loved this story. Believe it or not, some of us in Northern Virginia have had similar experiences — sometimes just on our own front porches. It makes life easier.

    Liked by 1 person

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