Black Lives Matter vigils return to the Unitarian Society of Germantown

People gathered for a vigil for Walter Wallace Jr. at the Germantown Unitarian Society in Philadelphia

People gathered for a vigil for Walter Wallace Jr. at the Germantown Unitarian Society in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Chris Rabb)

The Unitarian Society of Germantown has been stirred to action, and will be holding weekly vigils every Tuesday evening, all with the same message as the undercurrent: Black Lives Matter.

Tonight is the first vigil, from 5 to 6 p.m. Community members will be lighting candles and holding signs outside the church along the busy Lincoln Drive in Mt. Airy.

The vigil is in response to the rising rate of white supremacist violence in the United States, following the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York where 10 Black people were killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist.

The church is also marking the two-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin.

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Mary Kalyna, the coordinator of the Black Lives Matter vigil tonight, said the church wants to give space and provide an outlet for those who are mourning.

“Even just give anyone some encouragement that they’re not alone in their feelings and that there are other people who feel this way,” Kalyna said.

Kalyna emphasized the importance of gathering in community after a tragedy.

“It is a way for people to come together to express collective grief, grief and anger, that these things happen and then nothing happens,” Kalyna said. “It’s a 24-hour news cycle, the ‘thoughts and prayers,’ And then it’s on to the next one.”

The Unitarian Society first began holding daily Black Lives Matter vigils after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. More recently, the church started hosting weekly Ukraine Solidarity vigils every Friday. Now the BLM vigils are back, and will stick around for a while.

Vanessa Lowe is a member of the Unitarian Society and an organizer with POWER, the largest interfaith-based social justice organization in Pennsylvania.

Lowe will be participating in the vigils. She said she values the ability to collectively grieve, and not just process the ongoing news, alone.

“When we hear these stories, it’s gut-wrenching and it’s hard. And me by myself, looking through the web or watching TV… it’s just like the shock,” said Lowe. “You need a community to come together with, and cry with, and just put your heads together, and just be together.”

“There’s so much pain in the world and so much of it is about relations and how we see each other, or don’t see each other. So, coming together, as humans, when things like this happen, is really critical,” added Lowe.

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Lowe is still hopeful that the “moral arc of the universe will bend towards justice,” hearkening back to the quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

She’s looking forward to expanding multi-faith organizing in the Philly region, where different religions can come together based on their commonalities; the belief in the inherent worth of every being, and the wish for “a healthy, happy world.”

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