In that Cathedral atop the highest hill in Saint Paul,
we gathered for Philando. He came on a white catafalque
drawn by horses, his coffin carried up the hill by pallbearers
in white suits into the nave of the Cathedral, filling
with mourners, his family, his neighbors, his co-workers
from school, senators, mayors, thousands of people
came to his funeral in that church which that day
was everybody’s church. Beautiful black men
ushering up and down the aisles, beautiful black women
in white hats, some of them plumed, and all of us, ordinary
people who wanted to say, “No. Not this man.” If ever
change could happen, we felt it might with this death,
this ignominious death that destroyed the scales of justice.
There at the center of the city, in the eye of the crisis,
we were together, white and black, to hear the gospel choir rock
the Cathedral, to sing full-throated, three thousand voices
filling that holy space, holy because we came together
for Philando who should have lived a long life, should
have been there to bury his mother and instead she buried him
like a nobleman, not in the Baptist church, but at the Cathedral
on the highest hill in the city, and like a lord, he was carried out
down one hundred steps and we all formed an honor guard to watch
his coffin descend and be placed upon the catafalque
to ride down Selby Avenue, his mourners following on foot,
to his school where the funeral food was barbeque and lasted
all that July afternoon.

Philando Castile © Moriah Pratt

Norita Dittberner-Jax has published five collections of poetry, most recently Crossing the Waters (Nodin Press, 2017), winner of the Midwest Book Award in Poetry, and Now I Live Among Old Trees (Nodin Press, 2020). Norita has won other awards for her work, including several nominations for the Pushcart Prize. A poetry editor for Red Bird Chapbooks, she lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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Moriah Pratt lives in South Saint Paul with her husband and son. Moriah continues to see the Imago Dei (“image of God”) in people. She is passionate about educating herself on social justice and the injustices in her community so that she can be active for change.