Although 70 people replied they would help with the plan to paint “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on State Street in front of the Vermont State House, closer to 200 volunteers had arrived by time painting got underway, shortly after 9 am Saturday, June 13.
“It went amazingly well,” said Noel Riby-Williams, one of the event organizers. “People were using rollers, but some were working freehand.” The results are neat and crisp. The painting was completed shortly after 11 am in a design similar to that painted on 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C., near the White House.
Riby-Williams and fellow organizer Lexington Shea were also delighted by the restoration of the hearts, each with the name of a person among the hundreds of black Americans killed by police between January 2019 and early June of this year. The original hearts, each fastened to a stick, had been carried by marchers during a June 7 rally, then placed along the sidewalk. They were mysteriously removed, or as Riby-Williams put it, “Stolen!” in the middle of the night following the protest.
Jennifer Bridgeman contacted Honour Their Names on Facebook midweek, offering to restore the hearts. “And she did it!” Riby-Williams said.
“And in two days,” Shea added. “It took us most of four days to make the original hearts. Having them back is so important.”
Both the young organizers are hopeful the restored display of hearts will remain in place for at least several days. “We will take them down if it’s going to rain, but we want people to be able to walk by slowly, read the names, and understand how terrible this is,” Riby-Williams said.
Honour Their Names is now planning another event, conceived as a physically distanced and masked family gathering, on the State House lawn in observance of Juneteenth, Friday, June 19. Juneteenth is widely celebrated among Black Americans across the United States. The origin of the commemoration was in Galveston, Texas June 19, 1865, when 250,000 enslaved African-Americans were told they were free. Although they had legally been freed two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation, that information was withheld in Texas.
Riby-Williams and Shea would like to see Juneteenth become a national holiday.