This is an opinion piece by Rania Batrice, former Bernie Sanders staffer and special adviser to the DNC.
I spent a lot of time on the road with our surrogates during Bernie’s primary run for president, so I carry a certain bias about the incredible people who stuck their necks out and put their careers on the line to support the Democratic Socialist Senator representing the state of Vermont. They rose to every occasion, endured endless harassment, put up with constant changing schedules, and worked their asses off every single day to do everything they could on behalf of the political revolution Bernie was helping to build. They were and still are the best activists, the best humans, the best friends anyone, especially any campaign, could ever ask for.
Erica Garner was part of our crew. I would often have to remind myself of her age. She had such a passion and intensity and seriousness about her. Yet it was so easy to see how much her children and those around her loved her and how connected they felt to her.
I remember the day she endorsed Bernie and the beautiful video that followed. It ran in South Carolina, almost on a loop. While we lost that state, bad, I haven’t talked to anyone who wasn’t impacted by Erica and her words in that spot. When she was stumping for Bernie, she brought the sadness that only someone who has lost the way she did could bring. But every single time, it was coupled with the fiercest intensity, and boundless determination—the kind of determination you saw and heard and felt and knew would change the world.
Erica left a mark on all of our lives. Anyone who was ever in her presence feels the heaviness and pain of her absence. She was a force, a patriot, a sister to everyone in the struggle. She showed love through her endless pursuit of justice—justice for her father and so many others who have been failed by the tragedy known as the U.S. justice system.
While we hurt and we mourn and we try to wrap our brain around how such an incredible person could be taken from us at such a young age, I can’t help but remember what my good friend said to me today:
… We can’t be hard on ourselves. It ’ s not helpful for ANYONE.
If we don’t forgive ourselves we burden ourselves with guilt and
can ’ t operate at full capacity. We ’ re already operating on and in
too many different planes. It ’ s okay to mourn. That process
takes a lifetime of different stages to complete. The guilt is only
detrimental for everyone and needs to transition into productivity
as quickly as possible whenever we ’ re conscious of it.
My friend is right. We’re hurting. We’re feeling guilty. We’re judging ourselves for not doing more and not loving harder and making more time when she was still with us. But carrying that guilt does nothing but keep us from the work that still lies ahead of us. The best way to honor Erica, her memory, and the beautiful babies she leaves behind is to get back to work—to stand in love and continue fighting like hell for justice--to remember her often and keep her memory alive by finishing the fight she committed herself to—to do more and be better because that is what Erica did, and I think that is what she would want us to do.