Wearing hooded sweatshirts and waving freshly cut flowering tree branches, more than 30 members of Edgewood Congregational Church, United Church of Christ at 1788 Broad Street in Cranston, marched up and down the street before weekly services on Sunday as a means to raise awareness of racial inequities.
Pastor Amy Frenze of Warwick said she hopes the younger members of the church not only understand the message of their procession but live it, as well.
“The lesson for the children was that people of color are treated differently,” said Frenze. “Racial inequities are real right here in our neighborhood. Jesus is here and now and is relevant to this situation of race.”
The children said they thought the procession was a wonderful experience. They realize that racial injustices exist and want to eliminate racial hatred.
Troy Schnabel, 12, a sixth grader at E.S. Rhodes in Cranston, said he was honored to help raise awareness to the issue.
“It felt good that I was spreading the word that color doesn’t matter,” he said.
Megan Scarborough, 12, a seventh grader at Park View Elementary School, felt the same.
“We’ve been talking about it all week at school and it’s really unfair that people are treated the way that they are,” she said.
Ian Frenze, 11, a fifth grader at Scott Elementary School, agreed.
“I didn’t think it’s fair that somebody was shot because they looked suspicious,” he said.
The event was inspired by the social injustice they feel is taking place in Florida with the recent murder of Treyvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American boy who was shot and killed Feb. 26. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up.
Twenty-eight-year-old George Zimmerman killed Martin as he was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home.
Zimmerman, also a man of mixed ethnicity and a community watch coordinator, was following Martin when he called the Sanford Police Department to say he witnessed suspicious behavior. Shortly after, Martin was dead. Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in an act of self-defense, yet Martin was unarmed.
Further, Zimmerman was never formally arrested, as the police confirmed that they did not find evidence of foul play. However, the lead homicide investigator wanted to charge him with manslaughter, but there was inadequate proof for a conviction.
Adult members of the church also said they are outraged with the results of the crime. Among them was Renee David.
“My son is bi-racial and looks just like Treyvon,” Renee said. “It’s important for people to see that we’re raising awareness of racial inequality.”
Jim Edwards, who marched in the procession holding up a sign that read “Justice,” said the issue has touched him deeply.
“I grew up in Mississippi and I believe so much in social justice,” he said. “You shouldn’t judge people by what they wear or the color of their skin.”
To their delight, civil rights leaders and public officials, including President Barack Obama, Reverend Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, have called for a full investigation.
Also, during a service that took place after the procession, children church members made a presentation on a project they’ve been working on throughout the Lenten season. Their topic was hunger and they explained how they learned about Heifer International, an organization that aims to end poverty and hunger.
For their project, children visited Overlook Farm in Rutland, Mass. Some of them saw a sheep give birth to a lamb and watched it take its first steps.
“It was absolutely breathtaking,” said Scarborough.