A Seaman's Quest

One man's search for truth


Response of Love

by Jessie Nilo

Mark's Note: Yesterday I heard a story that made my skin tingle. It illustrates so many principles that I believe in.

I'll let Jessie tell her own story.

On March 13, 2021, I attended a vigil for Breonna Taylor at the Boise Capitol. I got there early and live-painted her portrait from start to finish on the Capitol steps. But weirdly, I had unknowingly positioned myself smack in front of a group of counter-protesters who were yelling constant cruel insults at the vigil speakers, trying to pick a fight.

Ironically, I felt only peaceful, and stayed there, figuring I could pray. My prayer was for Holy Spirit to permeate the environment with his love. I even had my “Love” sign with me, a sign that was created for me by a friend.

God told me to just paint Breonna as beautifully as I can, and to not look over at any hostile onlookers or engage in verbal reasoning; my art was the only communication needed, God said, and I agreed. So I painted.

The angry people behind me yelled taunts toward the vigil attendees and in fact they were the only thing I could hear for quite a while, louder than the person speaking about Breonna at the microphone. But as I kept painting, the people taunting became quieter and quieter, then eventually became still, mesmerized by what I was creating.

As a group they gradually (and, I’m sure, unknowingly) moved closer to my canvas. They got so close that I had to politely tell them “excuse me” when I wanted to back up and assess what I’d painted. I smiled at them and got back to painting. They just kept looking at it in silence.

I wasn’t nervous at all. I knew this was the reason I was sent here, and I experienced so much joy from it — what an incredibly freeing experience it was.

Some state police officers came over to me also, visibly moved, and wanted to talk with me about my painting. I told them I want justice for Breonna and I’m painting this to show my respects for her life. I showed them the birds and the phrase about “flying” in her tattoo, explaining that I added birds in the background flying off the canvas, in hopes that her name will live on and the message of liberty and justice for all people will continue to go into places where anyone is still being harmed by those who are supposed to protect them. The police were teary-eyed and in absolute wonder as they looked. I thanked them for listening, and I also thanked them for serving us.

Later, I held up my Love sign and made somber eye contact with the line of police officers who stood watching. They raised their hands to me in return and several gave me a thumbs up, with serious expressions in their eyes.

Art and beauty moves hearts. Kindness opens doors. All of us, right down to the most wounded of us, are just people. We must do better than yelling, ignoring, burying our heads in the sand, taunting, fighting, or breaking in and shooting the young Breonna Taylor while she sleeps.

We have a long way to go and it is only through courage, communication, and kindness that we can ever hope to go forward.

Show up.

Through the presence of Holy Spirit, we can each become an instrument of peace right where we are today.

Oh yeah, I gave my painting to a young woman at the end. I saw her approach for a photo, and God told me: “Her.” She might have been the one it was for, but she was not the only one.