by DB Fromm
Sunday evening at 6 p.m., The Northwest Philadelphia Multifaith Clergy held a Vigil for Black Lives at Oxford Presbyterian Church, on Stenton Avenue. A diverse group of roughly 150 people attended, maintaining social distance on the church’s lawn, many bearing homemade signs.
From its front porch, faith leaders spoke in turn. Oxford Presbyterian’s Pastor Ethelyn Taylor presided over eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence, while many in the crowd kneeled and bowed their heads, before leading attendees in singing “Guide My Feet,” a gospel hymn.
Catherine Clever, a congregant, recited a poem composed by her 16-year-old daughter, Maya Clever, reflecting on the pain and fear provoked by the news of George Floyd’s death.
Reverend Kevin Porter, of Germantown’s First Presbyterian Church, noted the history and continuity of local faith leaders’ activism. Reverend Barbara Ballenger, of Chestnut Hill’s Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, called for the resignation of Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, who’s June 1 press statement referred to Black Lives Matter as a “radical left-wing hate group.”
Those present, many bearing homemade signs, advocated for Black Lives Matter, trans rights, as well as more specific policy changes.
Paul Silvester, a professor of education and an East Falls resident, urged the Supreme Court to revisit the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which shields police from civil suits, and improvements to civil rights history education.
“The history of the civil rights movement has been sanitized. Students learn the first three lines of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but it stops there,” he said.
Three police cruisers, and Streets Department garbage and water trucks observed from Stenton Avenue. (When asked the purpose of their presence, one truck driver declined to comment, noting official Department policy not to speak to the media.) The vigil concluded shortly after 7 p.m., while some leaders and attendees stayed for interviews with WHYY and AP reporters.
A follow-up vigil will be held at 6 p.m. this Thursday, June 18, on the lawn and online at Janes Memorial Church, at 47 E. Haines Street in Germantown.
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