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by Norita Dittberner-Jax


In that Cathedral atop the highest hill in Saint Paul,

we gathered for Philando. He came on a white catafalque

drawn by horses, his coffin carried up the hill by pallbearers

in white suits into the nave of the Cathedral, filling

with mourners, his family, his neighbors, his co-workers

from school, senators, mayors, thousands of people

came to his funeral, they filled that church which that day

was everybody's church. Beautiful black men

ushering up and down the aisles, beautiful black women

in white hats, some of them plumed, and all of us, ordinary

people who wanted to say, "No. Not this man." If ever

change could happen, we felt it might with this death,

this ignominious death that destroyed the scales of justice.

There at the center of the city, in the eye of the crisis,

we were together, white and black, to hear the gospel

choir rock the Cathedral, to sing full-throated, three

thousand of us projecting out into that holy space, holy

because we came together, because of Philando who

should have lived a long life, should have been there to

bury his mother and instead she buried him like a nobleman,

not in the Baptist church, but at the Cathedral on the highest hill

in the city, and like a lord, he was carried out down one

hundred steps and we all formed an honor guard to watch

his coffin descend and be placed upon the catafalque

to ride down Selby Avenue, his mourners following on foot,

to his school where the funeral food was barbeque

and lasted all that July afternoon.