Local civil rights and faith leaders led a peaceful gathering in downtown Riverside on Thursday afternoon. The intention was to honor victims of racial violence and inspire a positive way forward.
In the minutes before the candlelight vigil was set to begin on in Riverside, a diverse crowd of hundreds politely shuffled forward to pick-up battery-operated candles. They gathered outside city hall near the Martin Luther King Jr. statue to honor not only George Floyd but all those who have died from racial violence.
Local, Tommie Johnson was there with her husband. She was holding a sign that read "Love Me Like You Love My Culture."
“Not only am I here marching for the people that have died and the injustices, but also just to be able to be myself without people stereotyping and placing me in a box. I want my children to have that as well. I want them to be able to be themselves and be proud of their blackness and not have to try to hide it,” says Johnson.
While she is angry about a lot of things, she says seeing a crowd of Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and Whites showing their support for the cause of Blacks means things are moving forward. The unity brings her to happy tears.
Shore Denny, of Community Now not only felt moved by the diverse crowd of faces, but also by the representation of the next generation.
“We’re finally going to have a beautiful multicultural group of people that are gonna make it so that America might be what America was supposed to be. What we thought it was. Maybe we really will be equal and have opportunity,” says Denny.
The vigil lasted an hour and a half. A few people brought flowers to lay near a sign under a palm that listed black lives lost. Faith leaders representing Christianity, Judaism and Islam led prayers and a saxophone player performed for the crowd. Riverside Sheriff’s officers watched from a distance on top of buildings and parking garages as things ended peacefully. The final call to action was to take the momentum to the polls and vote change into the system.
Crowd Chanting: “Racial violence. Racial violence. Never again. Never again.”
Unity and action were two themes presented to a multicultural group of hundreds in downtown Riverside Thursday afternoon. They gathered in the shade of city hall near a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. to honor not only George Floyd but all lives lost due to racial violence.
“I think some good will come of this. I certainly pray that it does as a man who’s given his life to that end."
That’s Dell Roberts, an 83-year-old black man who was in attendance. Dedicating his life to the youth of Riverside, he worked for the school district for 38 years. Despite living through numerous community movements, he says the protests over the past week are some of the most positive he’s seen. Hearing some law enforcement officials admit they are falling short gives him hope that a shift in mindset when dealing with people of color is on its way. He recounted a message that he’s shared before.
“The one wish I had is that people would just be kinder to one another," says Roberts. "If they would do that then I think we would be ahead of the game.”
The vigil was led by an affiliation of groups including the local NAACP chapter, 100 Black Men and the Civil Rights Institute. A number of faith leaders representing not only Christianity but Judaism and Islam spoke and prayed. Also welcomed to speak were political leaders of color including Moreno Valley’s first African American councilwoman, Dr. Carla J. Thornton.
“Breonna Taylor. Sandra Bland. I just want to say her name," says Thornton. "California is not as inclusive about race as we would like the nation to believe we are.”
After a saxophone solo, singing and a call to register to vote, the vigil ended peacefully at 5:30 p.m.