BUCKHANNON — In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Buckhannon residents came together for a candlelight vigil at Jawbone Park Friday evening, organized by local resident Amanda Vezinat. Timothy Canter, a 2006 Buckhannon-Upshur High School graduate, emceed the event, announcing each speaker.
The event started with a prayer from Risë Straight Hanifan and a statement of support from Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory.
The first speaker of the night was Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s Special Education Teacher Jessica Williams, who spoke about the movement and her son, Theodore. “I’m telling you all this because Theodore, God’s gift, is also blessed with beautiful brown skin. But some people see that blessing as more of a sin, and they wish ill upon Theodore, God’s gift, because of it. I’m also telling you this because the black community cannot fight against these injustices by ourselves. We need our white brothers and sisters. I’m calling on you all today to speak up, speak out, and speak often. Before Theodore, God’s gift, becomes another hashtag,” Williams pleaded.
Danielle Walker, a current member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, spoke emotionally about three disadvantages she has lived with but worked hard to overcome. “As soon as my parents felt that I could understand, they told me about my three strikes that were against me. My first strike was that I am black, my second strike was that I am a female, and my third strike was, ‘I’m sorry baby but we are poor.’ I have lived with that moment of truth for almost 44 years,” Walker explained.
Mayor David McCauley followed with a prepared statement and explained that he, along with Chief Gregory and City Attorney Tom O’Neill are “collaborating right now on an exercise with the members of our own fine police department that will reemphasize and reiterate our city’s commitment to treating everyone fairly and the same, employing total professionalism.” McCauley continued, “We anticipate that come next year, Buckhannon will become only the second accredited Police Department in all of West Virginia. We’ll also be calling upon our Diversity Appreciation Coalition to make recommendations as to how we, as a community, may contribute solutions to ending racism here, and to develop our own best path forward.”
Kaitlyn Gifford, an upcoming senior of B-UHS, represented local youth and spoke on unifying the community to stand up for the movement together. “If you believe in a cause, you should be willing to stand up for that cause by yourself or with a million people,” she emphasized. Gifford quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, stating, “We will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream,’ and referenced Matthew 22:39 in the Bible, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lastly, Gifford closed by stating, “The way to peace is through love.”
Matasha Weaver was the final speaker of the night. “This fight has been going on for hundreds of years. I’m sure that it will not long be over, but together we can climb any hill that is in our path… We will rise up, overcome, and eventually, win this fight. We will not stop until black lives matter. We will not stop until the wrongs are righted. We will not stop ever,” Weaver asserted.
In closing, all attendees who brought signs were asked to come up on stage, and the audience was asked to light their candles as Weaver sang True Colors by Cyndi Lauper.
“I love the fact that it went peacefully. We didn’t have any of the animosity that we’ve seen in other locations, but we were able to pull together as a community, with the police officers here, as well as citizens,” Vezinat praised. “I think we had a great show of community love here today.”
Gregory also commented favorably on the peaceful demonstration. “I think it was a very good turn out tonight. I think it was a very peaceful event. I was proud to be here to keep everything peaceful,” he said.
To watch the entire vigil, visit The Record Delta’s Facebook page and click the Videos tab or visit https://www.facebook.com/recorddelta/videos/251561899468991/.