By SJC Advisor Nathan Sokol-Margolis.
When Tyler Haaren, a Meridian parent, asked the Social Justice Committee on September 30 to read names at the First Baptist Church’s Black Lives Matter Vigil in Jamaica Plain, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve supported the movement since its inception, and racial justice is a central tenet of our Humanities classes, but what would a vigil be like? How big would the crowd be? Would it feel effective for the students? Who was the speaker, and what would they say?
Upon arrival, the SJC students acquainted themselves with the list they would read aloud: names of African Americans who have been killed by the police. While it held over 40 names, we were reminded that it in no way identified all victims of police brutality; it was representative of many more people. Before the names were read, Reverand Mariama White-Hammond spoke to the over 50 people gathered to discuss Black Lives Matter in the context of Boston and Jamaica Plain. She explained that, while Boston has not endured a case like those in Ferguson or Charlotte, the city still holds a great deal of racial injustice. She described the effects of increased gentrification, noting how the rising cost of housing in Boston forces out many people of color who have lived here for their entire lives.
In the routine of our daily lives, it can be easy to forget the pain so many communities of color endure on a regular basis. But hearing all of those names spoken out loud, and facing the traffic on Centre Street as we held our signs high, this struggle for justice felt urgent, personal, and deeply connected to our lives.
At the end of the vigil, we grabbed our bags and headed back to the school. On the way the Social Justice Committee decided to continue to go to this first Thursday of the month vigil and to open it up to the wider student body. As we reflected on the vigil, we all agreed that it was the silence -- the respect we gave the names we read -- that made us feel empowered at this time in history when we often feel powerless.