A Vigil for Justice

By Mike Wood

Footage from May 25th’s Memorial Service for George Floyd – Credit: Connor Frame

One year to the day after George Floyd’s murder, people across the nation and around the world gathered together for vigils. Here in lower Bucks County, one of those services was held in his honor, organized by members of Freedom Neighborhood One, and No More Pain, Inc.

A diverse crowd gathered around the statue of Harriet Tubman in Bristol both to remember George Floyd, and to recommit to the struggle for Black lives. Several speakers emphasized the importance of remembering those who have lost their lives for the crime of being Black, but also the importance of continuing to fight to ensure that nobody else loses their lives so senselessly. They evoked the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ronald Greene, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and more. 

Speakers also pointed out that simply remembering these names is not enough, and that there is still work to be done for real change to happen. Brit Montoro of Lower Bucks for Change spoke first, and they reminded the crowd that we were there “For Black futures, not just the Black past.”

Civil rights attorney and former Bucks County DA candidate Danny Ceisler said “Tonight is a vigil, but it can’t just be a vigil.”

Korah Steed, one of the event’s organizers, said that there is a need for police officers to meet the members of the communities they serve, and said “We need more body cameras on police officers so they’re held accountable for the deaths of Black men, and Black women.” 

Louise Davis of the African American Historical and Cultural Society of Bucks County emphasized a need to understand the history of Black oppression in the US, saying “This is a continuity. It’s not 1 event, it’s not 7 events, it’s not 1000 events, it’s a systemic way of looking at people in the sense that they are less viable.”

Another organizer, Morris Derry of No More Pain, Inc., pointed out that between the deaths of Eric Garner in 2014, and George Floyd in 2020 there were “many people in between these guys that weren’t caught on video.” Derry also emphasized that though “it is important to continue to protest, to continue to march…” that it is time to take action. He stressed the importance and the urgency of actually implementing the reform ideas that have been discussed in the last year, saying “I don’t wanna be George Floyd. I don’t want my daughter to be Breonna Taylor.”

At 8:46 PM, after reiterating the need for the community at large to come together, saying “we need each other” to solve community issues, Derry led the crowd in kneeling. He urged attendees to think about what George Floyd was going through as he was killed. The crowd knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, symbolic of the time Floyd had to endure the knee of Derek Chauvin on his neck. 8 minutes and 46 seconds is a long time to kneel and reflect on something so powerful, and it certainly was a powerful moment for myself and everybody gathered there by the river. A somber mood fell across those in attendance.

Afterwards, Derry spoke again, saying “If that doesn’t change you guys, let it tonight.” He spoke with an unabashed emotion that carried through the whole crowd. “We really gotta get out there because Black lives matter… When we lose life it makes us really feel like our lives don’t matter.” He also added, “I’ll never say all lives matter… because I don’t believe it… I’ll believe it when I see that all lives matter.”

As for ways the community can start to come together around issues of racial justice, Derry encouraged everyone in attendance to come to a Juneteenth celebration that will also be held at the Bristol Wharf. Organized by the Lower Bucks County Juneteenth Committee, the event will be held from 12 pm – 5 pm on June 19 and will be a great way to celebrate 155 years since the end of slavery in the US, and to learn about Black culture and heritage.  More info about this event can be found here.

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