I went to the Juneteenth vigil in Somerville today, held at the Gold Star Memorial Library in East Somerville. I biked over around 8:20 PM, and got there around 8:35 - I ended up following some other folks: where else would a bunch of people dressed in black be going?
The vigil was organized by Just Us Somerville, a group that sprang up only a couple weeks ago. I went to their rally and march last week, from Powderhouse Square to Trum Field. This even was led first by the Reverend Jordan Harris, of Connexion United Methodist Church, just down the street in East Somerville - he gave a powerful speech, almost a sermon, about the reason for the celebration of Juneteenth, about the "celebration of a freedom that is still under attack." He called out to the (mostly white) crowd, and asked for a commitment, not just today, but for all days, to show up, to hold the powerful to account, to speak up, to do the hard work that is hard to do.
At the beginning of the speech, he asked everyone who was celebrating Juneteenth today for the first time to raise their hands. Nearly all the crowd did. At the end of the speech, he mirrored this, asking everyone to commit to a year of action, from now till the next Juneteenth, to work hard and to do the anti-racist work that needs to be done. I would say that this time, the entire crowd raised their hands.
After the speech, the lead organizer of Just Us Somerville (I've forgotten her name) reminded us of the concrete actions we could take - the City Council is taking up the budget as presented by the Mayor this week - and then led us into eight minutes, forty-six seconds of silence.
It was deeply moving. Hundreds, or at least many tens, of people, spread out across both lanes of Broadway at the Library, sitting, standing, kneeling in silence, holding up phone lights or candles.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds is a long time.
After the silence, we dispersed, as the organizers had requested. But that too was done in silence, the huge crowd filtering out, mostly on foot and on bicycle, past the police barricades and into the streets of Somerville, as night solidified around us.