Rahway Students Candlelit March
Submitted by Rob Kinch
On Tuesday, June 9, current and former Rahway High School students organized and lead a candlelit march.
“It is our duty to speak out and peacefully stand in unity to make certain that none of our children continue to experience racism in their lifetime.” As she reflects upon “the needless death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of the police and those who have died before him,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp vehemently affirms, “The Rahway School District can and does denounce this and ALL violence towards people.”
Citing the School District’s Mission Statement: “With diversity as our strength, the Rahway School Community shall…prepare all students…to become independent and self-sufficient adults who will succeed and contribute responsibly in the global community,” Dr. Camp affirms, “We all have an obligation to our children to work together to ensure that we create change.”
Also steadfastly resigned to being the drivers of change and speaking out in the voice of unity, are the students of Rahway High School (RHS). Arranging a candlelight march from the high school parking lot to Rahway City Hall the evening of Tuesday, June 9, current and former students Story Young, Cenera Moore, Amir Lembrick, Emery Myers, and Tymek Jones aver, “One candle can only do so much, but united we can light up a town.” Through their passionate efforts, the community of Rahway was peacefully aglow that evening with the heartfelt spirit of solidarity against the evils of racism.
“I always observed the terrible things that happened around me,” attests co-organizer and RHS senior Story Young. “I had been silent for too long,” she admits. “With the murder of George Floyd, seeing not only the nation come together to demand justice for the man’s stolen life but also the world as well, it was time to be the change you want to see in the world.
“I believe the responsibility of youth consists of when to put down your phone and join the world around you!” She continues, “There is only so much we can do as the youth of America sitting behind a screen; I encourage them to feel compelled to educate themselves, their friends, their families to join a protest, to form a youth council in their community, to make their voices heard because we, as youth, are going to be the change this world sees.”
“Amir, Enera, Emery, Tymek, and I began planning this event June 3; this gave us enough time to advertise, accept donations, coordinate with volunteers, prepare statements, and mentally prepare,” offers Ms. Young. After their initial expectation of having at least 300 attendees, the student organizers realized that their expectations were about to be surpassed due to the numerous flyers shared, myriad questions received, and the many offers to volunteer. “At around 7:15 p.m., crowds of people came rolling in to the RHS parking lot; it seemed never ending,” she explains.
As the marchers made their way through the town on route to Rahway’s City Hall, the organizers watched their numbers increase as community members rapidly began joining the march line. Upon arrival at City Hall, they were greeted by nearly 100 additional Rahway citizens. “The organizers and I were so overcome with emotion seeing so many people coming out in support; it made the night even more powerful,” shares Ms. Young. “My heart was glowing and I was so proud of our community, of my community!”
When asked from where her sense of responsibility had come to have her voice heard, Ms. Young was swift in offering credit. “My parents have always been incredibly supportive; they help me to share my voice with the people around me. My education helped me grow my vocabulary and form sentences, while theatre gave me freedom to be myself without fear of judgement, to stand up in front of crowds and sing my heart out and express my emotions.”
Thanks to their moral courage and strength to speak out, the student organizers realized an especially poignant success. Although lit by the candles of many, the evening shone with only one light…that of a community united in spirit.
Lauding the efforts and accomplishments of her district’s students in creating this remarkably unifying and meaningful march for change, Superintendent Camp takes a moment to consider some serious issues. “As educators who stand against racism and inequity, the question for the Rahway School District becomes, ‘Are we successfully teaching our children kindness, empathy, and acceptance of others? Are we successfully teaching our children to stand up for their constitutional rights?’” She offers sincerely that, “Considering the efforts of Story, Amir, Cenera, Tymek, and Emery who organized and delivered an impactful BLM demonstration – the answer to those questions is an emphatic YES! I personally experienced the demonstration and I am so proud of their actions to bring about real change in our community. Their depth of character is truly reassuring that the future is in good hands with our RHS graduates.”
Photos by John Marks, Rahway Public Schools