Lights in the darkness: Residents peacefully protest racism in America
By Lindsay Myers and Emily Strab
Several local peaceful protests have garnered city-wide attention as the Hyattsville community grapples with the killing of George Floyd.
On Saturday, May 30, residents around Hyattsville made a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in memoriam for Floyd, who died as Derek Chauvin, then a Minneapolis police officer, held Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee. In response, cities around the nation have held vigils to shed light into the darkness. Los Angeles shined a search light into the sky. Residents in Minnesota’s Twin Cities turned on porch lights and headlights. In Hamburg, New York, the porches glowed red.
In Hyattsville, people of diverse color and creed gathered on their porches to silently hold candles and pray, and to speak the names of the too many victims of racial violence in the recent past. At a home across from the Hyattsville Justice Center, the homeowners placed signs with the names of victims of racial violence in their yard and wrote “say their names” on the risers of the porch stairs.
“The night of the vigil, on our porch with our candles lit, we went through the names. We spoke them out loud. We told our children the stories behind those names. It’s important to my husband and me that our children understand that the peace we enjoy on a daily basis as a family might not be the norm for many others, including people we know well and love, who have to alter the way they act, live and move in society to be safe in a way we never have to consider,” said Jocelyn Twigg.
Speaking of her family’s participation in the porch vigil, Monica Casañas said, “We needed to make sure our daughter knew we didn’t sit on the sidelines. We wanted her to see that we stand in solidarity with our black brothers & sisters. We protest differently now that we’re parents. Nonetheless, we need to show our anger at the current state of things.”
On Thursday, June 4, University Christian Church on Adelphi Road hosted a “non-violent demonstration of solidarity with George Floyd and other victims of racial terror,” as described by an event flier. Participants observed social distancing guidelines and wore masks. Those who brought signs were encouraged to stand facing Adelphi Road to attract the attention of passing drivers.
The event featured speakers and 8 minutes, 46 seconds — the amount of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck — of near silence, punctuated only by a reading of the names of black Americans who have been killed by police. The list included George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery and Tamir Rice — and Leonard Shand, who was fatally shot by members of the Hyattsville City Police Department last September.
The Rev. Dr. D.K. Kearney spoke about the deep-rooted problems in American society that have fostered divisions that have erupted with new strength in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“This society is morally sick when one is crying for their life, bystanders are crying out for someone’s life, and yet the one who took an oath to serve and protect refused to remove [his] knee. Something is morally wrong in America. We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers. We have fast and better information processing systems, but less wisdom and common sense,” said Kearney. “Something is erroneous about the society we live in because we have been able to find our way to the moon and back, but we can’t find our way across the street to meet our neighbor.”
Kearney advocated for the growth of authentic communities — communities that live, talk, and vote together — as the only solution that will eventually heal American society.
“Tonight we are demonstrating community. We have prayed together, we have cried together, we are standing together. Tonight we are demonstrating the power of community. Our destinies are interwoven.” he said. “The power we feel tonight cannot remain in this place. When community comes together, no demon in hell can stop us. No injustice can stop us. No racist can stop us. When we as a community come together, there’s nothing that is impossible.”