Does Your Heart Break Now? Mourning George Floyd with Two Songs and a Conversation

Along with the rest of the country, I watched the recording of the death of George Floyd. I heard him gasp “I can’t breathe.”

In the aftermath, as police clashed with protestors and pundits politicized, many of us, watching in helplessness, turned to prayer and mourning. For George Floyd and his family. For the tragic history of racial injustice in America. For our own complacency and blindness to the multifaceted issue of systemic racism.

Searching for sources to help my prayer, I’ve been returning to two songs and one podcast conversation. I share for those who know how music can help us process grief and open doors of understanding.

Did your heart break? Does your heart break now?

The Brilliance consistently produces music that calls Christians to the law of love without flinching in the challenge of it. The title track of their 2015 album Brother calls us to love our enemies as Christ commanded. “When I look into the face of my enemy/I see my brother/I see my brother.” That song was a lifeline for me during the 2106 election year and has been ever since.

Right now it’s the album’s fourth track, “Does Your Heart Break?” that’s been a lifeline. Here The Brilliance asks us to take violence against racial minorities seriously, to listen to their stories of growing up in fear and in being feared and to let your heart break as Christ’s heart undoubtedly does.

Here’s the line that holds my sorrow:

When the man said
You are choking me
And he cried out I cannot breathe
Did your heart break
Does your heart break now

In this interview songwriter David Gungor says he added the line on the spot in a performance to address the racial tension following the 2015 asphixiation of Eric Garner by chokehold in New York City, where Gungor lives.

Tragically, the song now also applies to George Floyd.

Did your heart break? Does your heart break now?

One of my brothers used to be a cop, and I know how focusing on these deaths makes good police officers feel unfairly judged. That’s an important aspect of the law of love too, but it shouldn’t prevent us from looking deeply into our own hearts and finding the courage to confront our complacency.

Did your heart break? Does your heart break now?

During these horrific days I also revisited Kevin Heider’s 2018 conversation with Ike Ndolo on the Song & Story podcast. It’s a must-listen at this moment.

Song & Story’s “conversations with songwriters about their songs” never fails to enlighten, but the Ndolo episode, The Brother on the Outside, took it up a notch.

Ndolo’s song “At Your Table” from his 2018 EP Shine is the episode’s subject, and it becomes the vehicle for Ndolo to share his experience growing up as the son of Nigerian immigrants in middle America.

“The only black family in the white church,” the song begins, and if you’re white and doing your best to follow Christ and love others, it will make you uncomfortable.

Please listen to the song and the podcast episode. Hear Ndolo’s school experiences and his confusion about the all-white presentation of Christianity he received in church.

Ask yourself where you keep your car’s registration and proof of insurance and compare it to where Ndolo keeps his.

Then purchase Ndolo’s album and be grateful for the beauty he created. Be inspired by his gift.

And pray about your next step in living the law of love. The Catholic Church has loads of dark-skinned saints. Could we begin by representing more of them in our places of worship so nobody has to feel like a brother on the outside when they’re with us?

Did your heart break? Does your heart break now?

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If you enjoyed this, you might also like Music, Meaning and Piece of Maria: How the Song & Story Podcast Can Fill the Music Void You Didn’t Know You Had.

“The love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, clearly shows us that we are all children of one God, and that we are all equally subjects of Christ our King, in the Kingdom of God our Father. We are all brothers and sisters.” –Fr. Erich Rutten, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in St. Paul, the first Catholic Church founded by and for African-Americans living in Minnesota. Read more here.

Saint Peter Claver is the patron saint of slaves. His story is beautifully told in the second chapter of Brandon Vogt’s Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World.

It’s about the law of love.

Does your heart break now?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.

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