It’s been a hard week. Last Friday I found out a dear friend and coworker had died unexpectedly, Saturday I went to the celebration of life for my partner’s grandfather, and Wednesday I went to my coworkers celebration of life. It has been super emotional to say the least. I went from being my partner’s emotional support to not being able to keep it together. I have experienced the full spectrum of grief, and then repeated it.
My coworker and friend was one of the most amazing humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our hardware store is in a small town so everyone who works there is like family. His name was Don Wallace, and I want to tell you a bit about him. He served in the navy, beat cancer, volunteered for the church and the community, helped anyone who needed it, and was sassy as hell. You couldn’t meet a sweeter, funnier, or more beautiful soul. The world feels darker without him.
At his celebration of life the entire community came together, there wasn’t even room in the church for us all to fit. You could see it in everyone’s faces that Don had impacted their lives in one way or another as tears glistened on their cheeks. I cried for almost three hours. Every time I thought I was okay, I would start crying again. It just kept making me think about other people I’d lost and how much it effected the community and how one man had done so much good in his life. He was always genuine, in his actions and his emotions. When he talked to you, he focused on you, he didn’t have ulterior motives, you were what mattered at that moment. There just aren’t people like him nowadays, everyone has an angle and they genuine kindness and interest isn’t there anymore.
So after crying for too long, I went home and took a nap, and tried to gather myself. Because that evening I was going to see Run the Jewels in concert at the Orpheum Theater in Madison. I had been looking forward to this concert since we purchased tickets months ago. How can you go from being emotionally defeated to trying to be happy and dancing? I didn’t fully succeed, I couldn’t get my mind off of the events of the day. But as I drove to Madison the sun began to set and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d seen in months and I knew it was Don, telling us he was alright.
As I stood, ready for Run the Jewels to emerge there was a moment after the first song where Killer Mike took a moment to say a few things. First, he noticed that the people in the pit were rather smushed and told everyone to take one step back. He then continued on to say that these shows get wild, but every person is there to have a good time. He ended with two guidelines, if you see a girl getting groped, you can knock a motherfucker out, and if someone falls down while dancing, you pick that motherfucker up. He set up guidelines of respect and safety, something I have never had at a show, it’s always implied, but rarely stated.
This was a pair of artists who respected their fans and wanted them to have a good time. There was even a guy who was getting dragged out by security for smoking weed and Killer Mike refused to continue the performance if they didn’t let him stay. “If people want to smoke plants at this show, you go ahead and smoke plants, this is a safe space to enjoy our music.” He wasn’t doing this to get attention or be a drama queen, he legitimately wanted everyone to be able to be at the show and enjoy it in a way that made them happy.
Obviously they were shaping up to be a solid pair of humans on top of being amazing rappers. Later on they paused and Killer Mike and El-P got a bit political. They spoke to the fact that the world has been a scary place lately, amidst shouts and cheers, they continued to tell everyone to look to their left and look to their right. Even if you feel scared and alone these people are from different backgrounds and cultures and you may have never met them, but they feel the same way you do. You have allies in unexpected places.
It seemed so out of place but so fitting. In one of the saddest days of my life I found comfort in the words of these men. There are good people left in the world, people who care about friends and strangers and will go above and beyond to keep them happy and safe. Don may be gone, but his actions will live on in the people who were in his life. If a rap show can preach equality and safety, so can you. Please be kind to one another. Live you live in a such a way that an entire community stops to celebrate your existence.