WAYNE, NJ – St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Wayne along with the St. Joseph’s campuses in Paterson and Cedar Grove held a White Coats for Black Lives peace vigil as a tribute to the death of George Floyd and in solidarity against racism in America.

In front of the main entrance to St. Joseph’s in Wayne on Monday afternoon doctors, nurses and staff came out into the warm sunshine to join together and show their support for the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement.

Jennifer Mendrzycki, Vice President and Site Executive for St. Joseph’s Health and St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Center welcomed the crowed in front of the hospital saying: “We are here to denounce racism and express our support for black lives. We join together to state that we are tired of watching innocent black men being targeted with violence.”

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“We want the communities we serve, especially our African-American community members to know that St. Joseph’s Health stands with you to fight against racial injustices, and we are here to support your health, your care and your life,” Mendrzycki added.

“Together we can heal the pandemic of racism,” she said in conclusion before introducing Deacon Lawrence Duffy and Father Sabinus who provided prayer and reflection.

Sister Patricia Codey, a member of the Board of Trustees for St. Joseph’s Health as well as a Sister of Charity of the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth then took a turn at the podium and read a message from a fellow board member, Donna Boles, an African-American woman, who could not attend the vigil.

“I can no longer just speak and think about it,” read Codey. “I have been moved to engage on the topic with my interactions with everyone. Its only through this open, non-judgmental dialog that we can overcome perceived condescending differences. This is an engagement I encourage all of you to take up. Sometimes the discussion may be uncomfortable, but it is well-worth having to bring about understanding and mutual human respect.”

“This is how you fight racism: You live by example and stand up for what is right,” Codey read.

George Floyd a handcuffed black man died on May 25 as a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; ignoring his cries for help until George eventually stopped breathing.

Mendrzycki came back to the podium and said: “In the time since Floyd’s death, ‘08:46’ has become a potent symbol of senseless acts of racism against African-Americans.”  She then asked those gathered to take a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds as a tribute to George Floyd. 

During the long, silent pause the crowd reflected on Floyd’s death.

Similar sentiments were shared just miles away where St. Joseph’s Health staff and officials, including President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health, Kevin Slavin gathered at the healthcare provider’s Paterson campus.

Referring to present times in America as “the most difficult” he has ever seen, Slavin said that the gathering was to join together to “denounce racism and give support for all black lives.”

He told his staff that gathered around him: “During this time of civil unrest, you are on the front lines. Health is the baseline for any community. We stand together with the African-American community against this pandemic of racial injustice.”

Also in attendance in Paterson was Dr. James Prudent, the hospital’s Director of Medical preparedness who made headlines for his battle and recovery from COVID-19. “I grew up during the 60’s and participated in demonstrations,” the 70-year-old Pruden reminisced. “Back then, it was said that you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. I’m glad that today we helped see that there is a real problem and that we can be part of the solution.” 

In Wayne, Mendrzycki concluded the vigil with this: “As a mission-driven organization rooted in a proud history of diversity, we wanted to hold this vigil today as recognition of the power of a peaceful demonstration to begin healing the deepest of wounds.”

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Ed Rumley from TAPinto Paterson Contributed to this article.

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