UNION, NJ – About 450 people stood on the steps and lawn of Union’s town hall on Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil in solidarity and in memory of George Floyd.
“As the wife of a Black man and the mother of a young Black man, I acutely feel the pain surrounding what was revealed to the world when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis,” said Union Mayor Michele Delisfort to the crowd. “But you do not have to be Black to empathize with that loss, or to want a better society, an equitable society, a just society.”
“We are Union,” continued Delisfort. “This is a very unique moment in the Township of Union. It’s a time to demonstrate our capacity for greatness. We will be remembered and judged by what we do in this very moment. So let’s strive to be the very best versions of ourselves, of our community. Now is the time for selflessness. Putting the needs of the whole above the desires of the individuals. The understanding that when we hold others up, we are all strong together.”
“We are gathered here tonight in the name of justice,” said Rev. Dr. Samuel M. Wright, Jr., chairman of Union’s Human Relations Commission, who sponsored the event. “However, tonight is not about pointing fingers or placing blame. Tonight is about truth. Tonight is about justice. Tonight is about life and tonight is about liberty.”
“Yes. Black lives matter. Every living human being -- Jew, Gentile, privileged, impoverished, male, female, born in the United States or elsewhere – every life is a gift from God,” continued Wright. “How dare we take something some precious as treat it as refuse. We are here tonight to say no more.”
Senator Joseph Cryan asked the assembled crowd to take a knee, if possible, for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time George Floyd was held down by Minneapolis police officers before his death. At the conclusion of the moments of silence, Cryan said, “In Union, Black lives matter. In the State of New Jersey, Black lives matter. Across this country, Black lives matter.”
As the program concluded, the crowd broke out in a spontaneous rendition of “We Shall Overcome”.
“I’m a graduate student at Rutgers Graduate School of Education,” said Union resident Dana, 21. “We are discussing how progress is based on social justice. People of color have faced so much for too long. I wanted to come here and show my support.”
“I want to be able to tell my kids someday that I did something,” said Kristen, 22, of Union. “That I stood up for what I know is right.”
“I’m still angry,” said Union resident Latisha. “It’s hurtful. Now is the time for change and I think change will come. Our voices will be heard. People need to understand what we go through. As parents of young Black boys, we have to have ‘the talk’ with our sons so they stay safe. It’s sad. I want others to feel what we feel.”
“I don’t want to fear my son going out,” said Anja. “I want to feel he’s safe when he starts driving, when he’s out in the neighborhood. That’s all I want.”