Anti-racism rally and vigil scheduled for Sunday

Abington residents are invited to gather in the name of social justice and anti-racism at a Black Lives Matter rally and vigil scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Memorial Field.

The event is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. and will feature local speakers talking about their experiences with racism.

“The focus really is to try and get the community together and get something started here,” said event organizer Nicole Schick, an Abington resident.

Sunday’s event is not an anti-police rally, said Schick, who has two brothers that serve as police officers; but rather a chance for a community like Abington to discuss racism and hear the experiences of Black people at a time when the nation is roiling in anger and upheaval over systemic racial inequities, highlighted by the high profile deaths of Black people such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abery, and Rayshard Brooks.

” I really hope people leave the event feeling a little more informed, one, about the history of Abington, and, two, having learned more about the experiences of people of color, the systems and organizations in the community, and how folks feel we need to upgrade those systems,” said Schick.

Island Grove in Abington was a popular meeting place for abolitionists in the mid-19th century, with its proximity to the rail line and shady canopy. A stone marker in the park memorializes the spot where famous anti-abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison spoke to thousands.

Speakers for Sunday’s event include Abington residents Jason Stewart, Timothy Cordeiro, Joanna Baton, and Vicki Graham; Abington High School Principal Teresa Sullivan; Abington High School History Department Head Jason Scott; and Abington Historical Society President Doug Ulwick.

Attendees are asked to use the main Memorial Field entrance off Ralph G. Hamlin Jr. Lane. The event will take place in the far corner of the field opposite the entrance to allow people to fill in the back while remaining six feet apart.

On the way out, there will be tables with voter registration forms and other resources to help families talk about racism.

Schick, a social worker, who is in a biracial relationship, said the seed for the event was planted one evening while in the kitchen with her fiancee. Instead of planning their wedding, they were stuck at home during the height the COVID-19 pandemic, watching the news about the Floyd death, and feeling a need to make a connection in their new hometown.

The original plan was to gather with a few people and hold #BlackLivesMatter signs at the intersection of Routes 58 and 123.

“I thought we’d have five to 10 people tops, and we’d have some signs and we’d call it a day. By the next day, we had over 100 people signed up and we said, ‘This isn’t going to work’,” she said.

Out of an abundence of safety, Schick canceled the standout and started working with Abington police and other town officials to find a better, safer location.

Island Grove was considered because of its historical significance, but Memorial Field was eventually chosen as it will allow a large number of people to gather without disrupting traffic and bothering residential neighborhoods.

Alison said Abington Police Chief David Majenski and state Rep. Alyson Sullivan have been very helpful and supportive while planning the event.

“I’ve been in regular communication with them about a location and site and making sure it’s well thought out,” she said who added Majenski will be on half to help greet people as they enter to show their support for the event.

While national media has been filled with images of large-scale rallies in big cities that sometimes end in violence, a number of South Shore communities have held peaceful Black Lives Matter and anti-racism rallies and vigils in recent weeks, including Rockland, Whitman, Bridgewater, Hanover, Quincy, and Hingham.

Acting Town Manager Scott Lambiase said he’s expected a safe, positive event on Sunday.

“[Schick] has been extremely cooperative and pleasant to work with,” he said. “She reached out early on in the process to public safety representatives and has been working hard to ensure a safe event. I’m confident that the event will be successful, peaceful, and a great opportunity for the community to get together on a very penetrating issue.”

More than 100 people have indicated on the event’s Facebook post they will attend, with another 300 saying they may. Attendees are asked to wear masks to the event, and leave backpacks and coolers at home. Bags are allowed for attendees with medical problems, or for parents with small children.

Alison said the response has been encouraging, particularly the number of #BlackLivesMatters signs sprouting in Abington front yards.

“I’m so incredibly moved. We really thought therewas going to be like three people joining is, and we’re now over 400 interested in the event,” said Schick, who is relatively new to town. “To see the town come together, from a pwersonal note, has not only been really empowering but also motivating.”

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