Brigid Callahan Harrison’s Speech From Monday Night’s NAACP Gloucester County Candlelight Vigil At Atkinson Park In Sewell

Brigid Callahan Harrison’s Speech From Monday Night’s
NAACP Gloucester County Candlelight Vigil
At Atkinson Park In Sewell

[May 29, 2020 – Longport, New Jersey] On Monday evening, Brigid Callahan Harrison, Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district of New Jersey, joined together with Loretta Winters, President of the Gloucester County NAACP, the Gloucester community, and various community, religious, and elected leaders for a candlelight vigil and conversation to address the murder of George Floyd and share thoughts on the country during this historic moment.  The following is a transcript of Brigid’s remarks:

I am here to mourn. I am here to mourn George Floyd, but also so many others who went before him who died in vain. And I am here to listen. I understand that as a white woman, I need to do a lot of listening because the America that I experience day in and day out is not the one that everyone experiences.

Time after time we see black men die in a manner that no human should, and nothing changes.
We’ve seen frustration build and crescendo rightly rise into an explosive rage because nothing changes. But without leadership, acknowledging the devastating toll institutionalized racism takes on a people, on a society, on our nation, nothing changes.

White Americans have avoided dealing with the problem of institutionalized racism because that has been part of white privilege, and that must change.

And in an era in which the President of the United States embraces white supremacists and Jeff Van Drew pledges undying support to that president, we all know that a lack of leadership is part of the problem.  And that must change.

In our moment of need, we need leadership to stand up speak this truth:

Black Lives Matter.

Black lives matter, not just when a man is being pinned down by the knees of a police officer.

Black lives matter from the moment a black child enters the world, from the health care that he receives as an infant, to the schools he attends as a child, to food he eats as a teenager, to
opportunities he has as a young man. Black Lives Matter.

And when our leaders do not believe these three words, that too must also change.

And so we must fight for leadership that will prioritize equality and fairness. We need leaders who acknowledge the inherent racism embedded in our society. We need to fight for leadership that demands criminal justice reform so that the school to prison pipeline becomes a school to success pipeline.

Our nation has faced dark hours before. But the optimism that we have all seen emerge in our country during our deepest struggles can provide us the opportunity to change.

We know that the deep-seated racism that permeates our society cannot be changed overnight, but the struggle for civil rights in the United States has taught us that the true ideals of democracy are our most powerful ally in addressing hatred and discrimination.

As my friend Senator Cory Booker stated eloquently, “The question isn’t are you or are you not a racist. The question is what are you doing about it? You can’t just not be racist. You have to be anti-racist. You have to be actively confronting it.”

And so tonight, I ask for your help, I need your help in actively confronting it.

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