The family of Candace Breen, a Black woman living in Barrington, Rhode Island received a letter from her next door neighbor filled with pro-Trump conspiracy nonsense, racism and hateful rhetoric, demanding that Breen remove the Black Lives Matter signs from her lawn. (You can see the letter Breen received at the end of this piece.) Three weeks later, the community responded with a show of support for Breen, a public demonstration outside the Barrington Town Hall in the freezing cold on Saturday morning, where Breen herself delivered a forceful and emotion rebuke to hate, and where neighbors and representatives from Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, including the executive Director Gary Dantzler, came together to oppose hate and racism.
Breen’s words were courageous, public and truthful, the exact opposite of the cowardly, unsigned and conspiracy laden messages she received from her neighbor. Below are her words, and the video.
“As you know my name is Candace Breen and I’m a resident here in beautiful Barrington. I would like to thank you all for coming out here today to support this cause and to send a message that hate has no home here in our town. I would also like to thank everyone who has had a hand in creating and organizing this encouraging event and everyone who has emailed, sent letters or posted support online. I’d like to say that my family and I are both humbled and extremely grateful and I can not overstate what your support has meant to us during this difficult time. Some of you here today may know me. Some know me by name. Some nobody in my face. Some from town meeting at Primrose Hill school. And some of you may know me from volunteering at school libraries.
“Some of you only know me by my license plate when you see me driving through town. And if you don’t know what it is, it’s Queen. No matter how you may know me, you will know that I am just a regular person. A wife, a mother to two beautiful children, a person perhaps you may be thinking is just like you. And I know that I may face consequences for speaking up, but I will not be quiet when confronted with hate. I will not be quiet when confronted with insults. I will not be quiet when confronted with irrational beliefs, such as how my Black Lives Matter flag on my lawn needs to be taken down because it offends someone. The fact that my life matters is not offensive. The belief that my life matters is not offensive, unless you believe my life doesn’t matter.
“My life matters. My children’s lives matter. And the old saying is true that none of us are free until all of us are free. Free from hate. Free from lies. Free from the insults. Free to be regular people living in a town, raising their kids, being good neighbors, just like you. Let us confront the hate. Let it be known that every person, no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter what religion they practice, no matter what gender they present, what language they speak or whom they choose to love, has the right to exist. They have the right to exist, to feel welcome, to feel safe in their community, to live in peace and to feel safe in their own homes. Because guess what? Their lives matter. All of them.
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“All lives do matter, of course, but it is not all lives who are threatened by hate. Threatened by lies. Threatened by attempts at intimidation and told to be quiet and take down their signs. Let it be known that no individual has the right to shout vularities or racial slurs outside the home of a family or a person, especially when they know that family or person is already experiencing harassment. Let us tell people who spread that hate that their actions are unwelcome in the community. As the saying goes, if you see something, say something. And say it loud, for what hides in the darkness must be brought to light. The struggle is real. I can tell you that it does not feel good to be on the other end of that hate, but it must be called out for what it is. Racism. Racism. Racism, plain and simple.
“For far too long blind eyes have been turned in the communities all across the country in regards to the injustice of our society. Blinded out by fear and blinded out of ignorance. Blinded by fear, ginned by the hateful forces of racism and ignorance. That one person’s rights must come at the expense of another’s. But that is just a false equivalency. We are here today to reject such hateful and backward thinking. We say that Black people’s pain harassment and inequities are real and they must be addressed. Not later, not tomorrow, not somewhere else, but here and now – today. Right here in Barrington, Rhode Island. I have spent my life, just like every other Black person in America, dealing with this stuff in and frankly, I’m sick of it. I want to be safe. I want to be free from harassment. And if a Black person can’t feel safe in their home here in Barrington, tell me, where do I have to go?
“There is no place to go. There is no place to go. So we have to speak up now. If there is no desire to speak up now, then when? If I can’t be safe here, then where? Let us not let feat keep us down and prevent us from addressing the issues that Black Americans continue to face. Let us set an example for our children and future generations and show them that they are just as good as the next person and that they deserve the same respect, security, equality, safety, and peace. Let us unite together as neighbors and friends and stare down the ugliness of racim so that those who once felt empowered in their hateful views and actions can no longer hurt members of the community who happen to look like me. And finally, let us go in peace, with love in our hearts, because that, in essence, is what will conquor the hate and the prejudices that have for far too long been an active part of this community. I love being here in Barrington, Rhode Island.. I love being here with you to say together that love conquers hate and that hates kind of no home here in our town. So again, thank you for being here today. I know that together we can stand for a brighter tomorrow for ourselves and our children and our children’s children. Bleesings, love and peace to you all.
All video and photos this page from reporter Adam Miner.
The event began with poetry from a Barrington resident:
Pastor Carl Jefferson:
Mel Bynum was the organizer of the event, and served as emcee.
Gary Dantzler, executive Director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island:
Paige Rahn was another one of the organizers and she read a poem.