Two vigils held in Brandon to protest racism and social injustice after the death of George Floyd

By LEE J. KAHRS

BRANDON — Sometimes silence can be more powerful than words, and sometimes power is in a name.

After a week that saw peaceful protests locally and around the country, two separate vigils were held in Brandon to protest racism in response to the national outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody. 

Rep. Stephanie Jerome (D-Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury) at the Say Their Names Vigil in Brandon ‘s Central Park on Friday. Photo submitted

Almost 100 people met in Central Park on June 5 at rush hour for a “Say Their Names” vigil, holding signs bearing the names of black Americans who have died in police custody. Starting at 4:30 p.m., they lined Route 7 along the curve of the park on the sidewalk wearing black, each participant saying the name of the person on their sign. They then moved back into the park and stood silently with their signs as motorists passed on their way home.

Then on Sunday, members and friends of St. Thomas & Grace Episcopal Church participated in a silent prayer vigil as a public witness against racism on Sunday, June 7.

Members of the St. Thomas & Grace Episcopal Church in Brandon stood in silent vigil last week in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. The vigils were organized by the Vermont Episcopal Diocese and held at Episcopal churches all over Vermont on Sunday, June 7. Photo by Frank Fansworth

For 90 minutes, roughly 20 participants stood quietly in front of St. Thomas Church on Route 7 holding signs that proclaimed “Racism is Sin” and similar messages. Participants included priest-in-partnership, The Rev. Rachel Field.  This event was part of a statewide effort publicized by the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont and involving faith communities around the state

“We as a faith community think it’s important to bear witness to the evil that is racism,” said parishioner Franci Farnsworth. “Many of our signs carried the message that LOVE is the answer  – loving our neighbors, loving all of God’s creation, loving the people with whom we have differences as we work together to end racism. But a silent prayer vigil is more about the silence and being visible witnesses. We were gratified with how many people driving or biking by waved or honked or otherwise indicated their support and appreciation.” 

Josh Collier helped organize the names vigil in Brandon on Friday. He said what he didn’t expect was the effect preparing the name signs would have on him. “The thing that I did not see coming was how emotionally taxing it would be to actually write, type, organize all of these names,” he said. “I believe it is imperative for us to gather today to not just say their names, but reflect on what each of their names mean, and who they meant the world to. We must do everything in our power to prevent anyone else from adding to an already unfathomably long list of martyrs on the altar of justice.”