“We shall overcome because the arc of moral history is long but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr. uttered these words at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. Barack Obama further popularized the quote during his campaign and presidency, even having it sewn into a rug in the Oval Office. The most common interpretation of the quote is that though progress may seem slow, justice will prevail in moral matters. But is it always destiny that justice will be done?
Eight Westerly citizens, inspired by these words and fueled by passion, decided that justice and accountability is only inevitable when people join together and put in the work. Together, they founded the Westerly Anti-Racist Coalition, or Westerly ARC, that serves as the organizing arm of the peaceful protests downtown. Initially, these protests were a vehicle to raise awareness, create community, and take the temperature of local support for racial equity; as they sparked conversation and connection, it became clear there was more work to be done.
While the members of Westerly ARC all live in or grew up in Westerly, they represent different generations, gender identities, and racial experiences. The
conversations have been challenging as the group works to educate themselves, determine their goals and how to measure success, and ultimately model what it looks like to be a diverse group of people working together for change – all of which culminates in their mission statement: “Embracing multiculturalism to address racism through education and empowerment.”
Aside from continuing a lending library and meaningful programming at the weekly town protests, Westerly ARC also plans to produce a multicultural events calendar to showcase the vibrant and varied local programming available, host online discussions to help people process real-time events, and educate and provide perspective to trending news and current legislation. This month, they are planning a Juneteenth celebration that will simultaneously mark a year of peaceful protests, which began in response to the death of George Floyd in May of 2020.
In prepping for this event to mark the impetus of Westerly’s protests, police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd’s murder.
“As we reflect on the realities of the last seven days in communities that may seem far away, we are reminded of the urgent need to support the physical, emotional, and psychological safety of Persons of Color right here in Westerly,” reads a statement Westerly ARC published soon after the verdict. “Just as a collective and emotional sigh of relief was let out surrounding the announcement of guilty verdicts for Derek Chauvin, there was also mourning for Daunte Wright, and heartbreak at the loss of Ma’Khia Bryant.”
“While we may not know exactly how to process all that has happened in just seven short days, it is clear that now is not the time to look away or think our
community is somehow protected from the impact of racism and bias,” it continues. “Now is the time to steer directly in the direction of doing all we can to be educated about the impacts of systemic racism and bias, celebrate multiculturalism, and move with a spirit of love for an even more beautiful and safe community.”
Join friends and neighbors every Sunday from 10am to noon on the steps of the Westerly Post Office. Learn more about Westerly ARC on Instagram (@westerlyarc) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the upcoming Juneteenth celebration.