On Wednesday morning at approximately 6:45 AM Bryce Williams (Vester Flanagan) murdered Alison Parker and Adam Ward during a live television broadcast. He filmed the shootings and shared the video with the world before taking his own life.
On Wednesday evening at approximately 9:30 PM Kamasi Washington and his band began their set in front of a packed house at the Howard Theater.
These events were not connected. They were separated by 190 miles and 15 hours. That is a world of distance; an ocean of time. Yet these events were inextricably linked.
When tragedies play out on camera and are spread in real time through the media, we all become witnesses. Our national and local psyches are indelibly wounded by these all too common eruptions of violence. Charleston. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. Minneapolis. By some counts, more than one mass shooting a day in 2015. More incidents than we can remember, more victims than we can effectively process. Every person in that audience that watched the news, followed the events on social media, or (god forbid) saw the actual video was affected as part of the larger, extended community.
By the time Kamasi Washington took the stage, the familiar pattern of action and reaction had taken hold. The same debates about mental health and gun control, the same longform reaction pieces, the same accusations of “politicization” from all sides, the same feeling that this event, like the ones that came before, would change nothing. That our crippling national inertia would continue.