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May 15, 2008

Bernard Gill

Last Tuesday night--it is dark and rainy, and about thirty of stand beside a parking lot on what once was prairie, not far from the narrow, powerful Mississippi. We stand around a baby pine tree and a hole. Rudy Balles, director of an anti-gang program for Peace Jam, holds a piece of braided sweetgrass that he has set alight. He moves slowly around the circle, blowing the smoke onto each of us with an object--I wish I knew its name--made mainly of feathers. The smoke carries our prayers to the Creator. Rudy sings in his deep resonant voice a song from the American Indian Movement. He sings about us and about the land, about peace and justice, and about G. Bernard Gill.

Bernard was a preacher, a leader of the National Youth Leadership Council, a widowed father of four beautiful and successful children, a young African American man of enormous achievement and promise. Right in the middle of the last NYLC Conference, which he had helped to organize, Bernard suddenly died. He told Rudy that he needed to find a cup of water, but he never came back with it. His second child was headed to college; Bernard himself was starting on a PhD. He was a model of passion, compassion, commitment, and ethics. We planted the tree for him, and you can help his family. May his name be a blessing for all who knew him.

May 15, 2008 8:36 AM | category: none


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