As a Minister of the Word the expectation is that I always be ready to share a word. Pastors give words of comfort in times of pain, words of encouragement in times of trial, and words of guidance in times of confusion. And yet, for the last couple of days, I have had trouble trying to string together the right set of words for my community, my friends, and even for myself. Perhaps you’ve had had similar feelings.

It seems that the entire city was on edge on Wednesday afternoon, April 13th, waiting to watch a recording of a police officer killing Patrick Lyoya. It’s not the first time we’ve witnessed a Black man being killed by a police officer in the news media. This time the victim of the fatal shooting was facing the ground. This time the officer decided the best way to calm the man down was to shoot him in the back of the head. This time it happened here, in our city, off the corner of Griggs St. and Nelson Ave. Patrick Lyoya is gone. He had a family, friends, and neighbors right where we live.

Lord have mercy.

Part of my childhood was lived on Griggs St. and I remember in high school often hanging out on Nelson with a friend who lived there. I have fond memories of growing up and living on the southeast corner of Grand Rapids. Not included in the fond memories is how often I have been pulled over by police officers in the area. More often than not, there was never a real explanation as to why I was pulled over or questioned. Rarely was I issued a ticket. In fact, I’m having trouble recalling getting any ticket from those particular interactions. My own sister was once tackled to the ground and arrested for resisting arrest, without any other justifiable cause for being detained. I’m part of the collective of minority voices that have been saying for too long that our neighborhoods are overpoliced, that the Grand Rapids Police department has not been trained properly and been abusive to the minority community, and that it’s only a matter of time before we end up in a situation where someone is shot and killed by an officer in something that was avoidable.

Here we are.

We stand with our community asking for transparency in the process of holding the officer and the Grand Rapids Police department accountable in the actions described above. We offer our condolences to Patrick’s family. We long justice, peace, and progress without bloodshed as the catalyst. And I say this knowing that words will never be enough.

We will maintain social media silence for the next few days, as an act of solidarity with the Lyoya family and so that we can better hear voices in the Black community expressing anger and anguish.

Rev. Ricardo Tavárez,
Executive Director