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A Black Lives Matter Candlelight Vigil in Rural Northwest Rhode Island



David G.

To truly be in the midst of like minded people in this town at this time – to find the helpers (there’s always helpers) and just to know that more good will come shows there IS hope – there IS light , even in the dark small town corners of our tiny state.

About 70 people gathered at Kent Field Pavilion in Chepachet on Monday in solidarity with each other and against racism and the murder of George Floyd. The turnout stunned the organizers as an anticipated crowd of 40 was almost doubled. The mostly white crowd was made up of people of all ages – from young families to senior citizens mostly. This gathering had an even more personal meaning as many members in rural northwest Rhode Island have had to deal with overt racism and bullying from their local unofficial town Facebook groups and in their school systems. 

The participation of the crowd of people who believed in social equality and stood firm against racism and police violence is a stark contrast to daily life. Many people who attended the vigil heard about it via Facebook and personal direct messages. The event was kept quiet due to possible retribution. There was no press nor police at the event.

People lined up outside the Kent Pavillion between 7 and 8pm. There was very strong support from those who drove by. The event was held without any incidents and it was a very meaningful event for all of the participants. It not only showed that residents are tired of our injustice system, but was an hour where 70 people could connect and feel part of a larger community without having to be worried about being bullied or maligned. At 8pm participants knelt and held candles for eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd.

Here are some quotes from those who attended the event. Last names are not given for security purposes. Pictures below courtesy of Susan O, David G., Jennifer H & thank you Danielle for the beautiful black and white picture.

From Patricia F – “I was moved to be a part of a gathering of citizens last night at a vigil for the lives of George Floyd and all of the countless other victims of systemic racial bias in this country. This gives me hope for the future of our town and our nation.”

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From: Jennifer H – “To truly be in the midst of like minded people in this town at this time – to find the helpers (there’s always helpers) and just to know that more good will come shows there IS hope – there IS light , even in the dark small town corners of our tiny state.

From Melissa L – “Please don’t let the action end tonight or even next week or next month. Start to really consider the things that you can do differently. Even small changes that you can make. I encourage you to talk to your friends and family and challenge their thinking. Talk to your kids! And if you’re already talking to your kids, DON’T STOP! The work may start there, but it certainly shouldn’t end there. I also implore you to look at and challenge yourselves. To be aware of your own biases and identify where they came from. Dig really deep. There is a system in place that oppresses Black people and people of color.. and it makes us have to carry signs that say that these lives simply matter. We all benefit from this system. We helped build it, and we allow it to keep working. We need to work to dismantle it and the work starts from within. Thank you all for standing up for what is right.” ( Melissa was a co-organizer)

From Sue W – “It was very moving to be part of this protest in Chepachet last night. I know there will be more, and I hope the momentum continues and the number of protesters will keep growing. Thank you Lauren for organizing this event. The candlelight vigil at the end with kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds was powerful.

From Steven – “It was good to see more folks talking and taking notice that we have major systemic racism issues in this country in the rural town also known for its racism. Black Lives Matter deserves the support of all citizens at this juncture of our country’s history.

About the Author

Lauren Niedel is currently a member of the RI Democratic State Committee - serving her 2nd term on the Platform Committee. She has been reelected for 2018-2022 session. She was also the State contact and delegate for the Bernie 2016 campaign.