A major message that has been communicated in response to the murder of George Floyd is that we each must find a way to take action. The Social Action Committee, chaired by Audrey Levitin and Sarita Eisenberg, published in the June 4th ShomreiWeek a range of opportunities for us to contemplate.
Last Sunday (June 7) I opted to attend a Prayer Vigil, which took place at 2:00 p.m. at the Football Field in Glenfield Park, located on Maple Avenue in Montclair. This gathering was organized by Reverend Michael Spivey of the Citadel of Hope Worship Center in Bloomfield. It was described as an open invitation for all to participate in prayers for our families, community, and our nation. In that it was stated that demonstrators would be adhering to social distancing guidelines, I felt that this was a safe way in which to express solidarity and to advocate for change in our community.
In truth, I was not sure what a prayer vigil would entail. I have attended Sunday services at various churches in town and had a sense of the liturgy and music.
Reverend Spivey opened the vigil by welcoming the fifty people in the park to join in praying for the wellbeing of our community and our country. He included the challenges of the COVID 19 virus and the difficulty in accessing appropriate health care, the tremendous loss of jobs, leading to housing and food insecurity, and the continuous systemic racism that has led to many blacks losing their lives. He spoke about how his faith helped him view these challenges in ways that allowed him to see it as God’s process to facilitate change.
Reverend Spivey then invited other clergy and people of faith to come up to lead the group in prayer. Men and women came up and movingly shared their prayers of hope and resilience to overcome the difficulties confronting our world during the recent months. Their words were spontaneous, and the group responded with affirmations and amens.
Some people invoked their memories of the past in Montclair when they had to confront discrimination in the schools, recreational opportunities, and business. They spoke of the actions that their parents took and that they themselves took. Not having lived here during that period, it gave me perspective on the Montclair that I inhabit currently.
Some spoke about how prayer might be insufficient in itself if we do not pair it with action. Getting people to register to vote is an important step as well as making sure everyone exercises that right This is especially important in elections on the local level, which impact the decisions made in our town and our county. Some spoke about being concerned that they would no longer be able to live in Montclair and their wanting to advocate for steps be taken for legal safeguards and affordable housing
Of the women who spoke, they emphasized that they were mothers. At first I wondered what led to their reiterating this theme. When I later saw on the protest sign ‘ All mothers were summoned when George Floyd called out for his Momma.’, I understood viscerally its meaning.
The Prayer Vigils will continue on June 14th and 21st at Glenfield Park at 2:00 p.m. I have attended many rallies and marches in the past, and the Prayer Vigil, though different, was equally eaningful.