Vigil for Black Lives Held at First Baptist Church

     Since December 2015, a Black Lives Matter vigil has been held monthly outside of the First Baptist Church on Centre St. The September vigil, which was held on October 1, featured Corey Stallings, Program Coordinator at the South Street Youth Center, as a guest speaker, as well as young women from the South Street Youth Center to help recite the names of those who have died due to racial violence.

     “Since George Floyd’s death in May, there has been of course a resurgence of interest as there has been across the country,” said Penny Wells, an organizer of the event. “We hope to maintain that until there are significant changes in the culture.”

Residents gathered on the First Baptist Church lawn on Oct. 1 to listen to guest speaker South Street Youth Center Coordinator Corey Stallings at the monthly Black Lives Matter JP vigil.

     Wells said that the gathering follows a similar format each month, and is a “vigil as opposed to a protest march.”

     Each month features a different guest speaker: “someone from the community who can talk about how their work or their special interests relate to the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Wells said. Then, there is a recitation of names of people who have died from racial violence.

     After that comes a 20 minute silent standout, followed by announcements and a Black Lives Matter Chant. Wells called the event “an hour, predictable, educational, and motivational.”

     She said that about 160 people came out to this past vigil, and around 200 came over the summer.

     “It works well,” she said. “It’s always outdoors; there’s a lot of space to spread out along Centre St. People can socially distance and everyone is wearing a mask.”

     She said that at the September vigil, people were spread out from JP Licks down to Pond St. on both sides. The standout gets “a lot of honking,” and “some dissent,” but not much, she said.

     In his prepared remarks, Corey shared what it feels like to be Black in Boston, as well as called  for everyone to support the Black Lives Matter movement and Black people and businesses in the City.

     “I seen even as a child no matter what you do or how hard you work you will still be black and not just be black, but Black first before anything, growing up now its smack-dab in your face.

     I’ve worked hard, I got an education, I have devoted 18 years of my life giving back to other people and the community and still when I cross the street I still see people quickly try to lock their doors (click – click),” he wrote.

     “I was able to travel around the world for work as a lead educator with Adobe through their Adobe Youth Voices initiative, met people from all around the world and each time would come back so inspired, so ready to help the world in any way I could and as I pass woman on the street a bunch of them still clutch their purses or walk to the other side of the street to the point there are times I tried to walk as far away to make ppl [sic] feel more comfortable.”

     Stallings told the Gazette that he “loves JP” and called the neighborhood “very inclusive, open, and welcoming in being able to say how you feel.”

The Black Lives Matter JP vigils are held the first Thursday of every month in front of the First Baptist Church.

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