Bordentown City and its surrounding community held a candlelight vigil at the small city’s heart to remember the life of George Floyd, and to show that “all lives cannot matter until black lives matter.”
BORDENTOWN CITY — For a brief moment Sunday, the over 100 people gathered at the intersection of Farnsworth Avenue and Walnut Street stood in silence.
They bowed their heads underneath the setting sun. Birds chirped and children whispered as the treetops turned to gold.
A prayer broke the stillness, and all at once came the rise of candles, cellphone flashlights and fists in solidarity.
Bordentown City and its surrounding communities held a candlelight vigil at the small city’s heart to remember the life of George Floyd, and to show that “all lives cannot matter until black lives matter.”
Floyd, 46, died while in police custody after a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck for over eight minutes, despite his pleas for help.
Floyd’s death, captured on video and shared worldwide, sparked protests and looting across the country every night over the past week. Even as the vigil was taking place, cities across the country were struggling to maintain order.
In Bordentown City, however, people were gathered to find peace during a painful time.
The vigil was organized by Krystal Bonfrancesco, who after watching the video of Floyd’s deadly arrest, felt compelled to do whatever she could to try and enact change.
“It was not the first time this has happened to the black community, but it would be the last time that I would be sitting in my home and quietly watching,” Bonfrancesco, 33, said to those gathered Sunday night.
“We hear so much about white privilege. And you know what, it’s true. With my white privilege, I’m here to say to you and to my child, and to the world, that all lives cannot matter, until black lives matter,” she added.
Bonfrancesco took to Facebook earlier this week and asked who would be willing to light a candle to remember Floyd, who was described as a gentle giant by his family.
By Friday, over 100 had said yes — not a surprise to folks from the city.
“Bordentown City has always been pretty inclusive from what I’ve seen,” said Dan DeRose, who has lived there since in 2011. “What everybody saw was obviously appalling. We’re here to show our solidarity.”
The crowd reflected that inclusivity — people of all ages and races were in attendance, many holding signs, some honoring the memory of Floyd, others with “Black Lives Matter” or “Justice for George Floyd.”
“Right now, this is the time to speak up and say something and act on it,” said Karrington Corbin, 20. “For so long I feel like we would just, you know, we would say something and disappear. Right now is the time to actually mean it and stand by it.”
Her friend, Myles Deveraux, agreed.
“A lot of people are going on social media and just posting things like #BlackLivesMatter, but I don’t think that’s enough,” said Deveraux, 19, of Columbus. “I’m not sure if me standing here is actually going to do anything, but I feel like me standing here is at least trying to do something. That’s all that matters, trying to make a change.”
Speakers at the vigil included Bonfrancesco, Bordentown City Deputy Mayor John Brodowski, Aneka Miller of Building Bridges, state Sen. Troy Singleton and Pastor Jasper Daniels of Power House Kingdom Ministries.
Each speaker shared how Floyd’s death personally affected them. They all agreed change needs to happen.
“I am a white male from a middle-class family who grew up with all the privileges that we hear about,” Brodowski said. “I can’t pretend to understand what people of color are going through at this moment.”
“It’s time that we, people that are similar to myself who grew up in a privileged background, recognize that although we’re comfortable in our own lives, not everyone is. We must do what we can to lift up others around us, those in our communities,” he continued.
Miller spoke of her 13-year-old son, and how the older he gets the more she fears for his safety, and how exhausted she is of that fear. She spoke about how its difficult for her to recite the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “and justice for all,” because she’s not sure she believes it.
But she also said Sunday’s turn out warmed her heat.
“The system is not broken. It is designed to do exactly what they wanted it to be, and what they wanted it to do.But we can fix it. We have to change it,” Miller said. “Every generation should try to make it better for the next generation. We should not pass the torch of racism and negativity to our children to the next generation.”
Singleton urged the crowd to not leave the spirit that drove them to attend the vigil at the intersection, but to carry it with them for the rest of their life, and to have the difficult conversations with both strangers and loved ones.
“I believe the better angels of our character will always carry us through, but every now and then those better angels need a little kick start to get going. Today is our day to kickstarter. What happens after today is on each and every one of you to try and make this better to make it something more powerful,” Singleton said. “Or else we just came out here for nothing.”
Following the vigil, the crowd dispersed as peacefully and quietly as they had arrived, some mingling around talking to neighbors and friends.
Kathy Dawson, who’s lived in Bordentown City for nearly 20 years, sat on the bench out front of Jester’s Cafe.
A self-described old hippie, she was struggling with Floyd’s death and the aftermath over the past week. She mentioned while out on a drive Saturday and listening to Bob Dylan, she broke down when Dylan sang “Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”
But Sunday night, she felt a little better.
“The community here, it’s just outstanding. People are there for each other at all ... I’m very, very proud to be living here,” Dawson said. “I feel like, you know, there’s a lot of really good people here and I think most people are good, and sometimes you just need to be reminded of that.”