By Sophia Franco
Managing Editor of Features
This past Thursday, I attended a vigil for Black Lives Matter at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain with several other South students. Although I’ve supported Black Lives Matter idealistically for a long time, I’ll admit this was my first time actually involving myself in the movement. I had a wonderful experience and would encourage anyone who is available to attend upcoming events.
The event as a whole lasted about an hour. Mark Henson, a speaker from Black Lives Matter Boston, kicked off the gathering with a speech about his experience with the movement and about the current state of racial justice.
Three students then read off the names of 40 men, women, and children of color who had been killed by police in the last few years. I was struck by the number of names that I had never heard before and by the length of time it took to list just a fraction of the names of those who had been killed.
The reading was directly followed by the vigil. Organizers in bright neon jackets handed out candles and signs and helped people line up along the street so that we weren’t blocking any pedestrians or businesses. There we stood for 20 minutes in silence as cars, buses, and bikers passed us. Some people rolled down their windows to shout words of encouragement. Some people silently flashed thumbs up, pumped their firsts, or nodded in approval while passing by. People on buses took out their phones to film and photograph. Still others simply glanced at the crowds, before turning their attention back to their commute.
This part of the night felt the most moving to me. For twenty minutes, we could all join together and silently show our support while reflecting on the events that had led to the need for such vigils in the first place. Afterwards, we gathered back on the lawn of the church to sing a civil rights hymn before concluding the night with a chant of “Black Lives Matter.” Before the crowd dispersed into the cold night, organizers announced that an estimated 500 people were in attendance, compared to their regular numbers of about 40 to 80 people.
Many in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement cite wild and disorganized protests as a reason for their disapproval. While my experience wasn’t necessarily representative of all Black Lives Matter events, considering that the monthly vigils aren’t protests of recent killings, I still think that assumption should be reevaluated. Those organizing the vigil took great care to ensure the safety of everyone in the area, whether they were participating in the vigil or not. While I’ll save the dispute over whether protests should be nonintrusive for a later article, I’d say that at this vigil did an excellent job of balancing the needs of the surrounding community with their event.
For anyone interested, the vigils take place on the first Thursday of every month at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain. Organizers on Facebook stress that “all are welcome.”