To the Editor,

Last night, Piscataway welcomed a new baby, Giana Butler. On the day she was born, her mother, Quiyana, was helping to plan a community vigil for racial justice in our town.  Giana will be three days old when we hold the vigil this Thursday, to stand up for social equality at a time of national inequity and injustice. 

We will hold signs that say “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice” and “Black Lives Matter.”  We will remember George Floyd, an African-American killed in Minneapolis at the hands of a vicious white policeman.  We will remember far too many others who have lost their lives to hatred, bigotry—and inaction.

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We will also be standing up for the community we would like Giana to grow up in.  A community where racism is challenged in everyday practice, not only in a crisis.  Where people are not “color blind,” but color-full, recognizing the dignity of each other in our many expressions.   Where the concept of public safety includes safety from pollution and hunger, safety from discrimination and xenophobia, safety from shaming because of difference, safety from neglect because of indifference.

We will be standing up for Giana’s right to community support and investment.  Where quality education and access to health care are top priorities, unburdened by debt.  Where the air and water are clean, and town planning is sustainable.  Where Giana’s life chances will be equal and secure, including the chance to make mistakes and keep growing, as well as the chance to shine and be honored.

We will be standing up for Giana’s right to a democratic society.  Where her voice and her vote count as much as any other.  Where public information is accessible and participation is valued.  Where elected officials are accountable and every neighborhood is served.  Where the public treasury is used for the common good.

In our vigil, we will be recognizing that Giana’s future rests with the choices we all make to keep working toward these ideals.  As friend of Giana’s family, I already know she will be deeply loved and nurtured by her parents, along with her brother and sister. 

This very fraught moment asks more.  It calls on all of us to help create a stronger community, welcoming and protecting every family, even in a pandemic and hard times. 

I will be at the vigil Thursday—safely distanced and wearing my mask—to renew my commitment to justice, to community and to Giana.  Please join us: Green Acres Field, 7 pm, Thursday, June 4.

Ann Bastian