FRUITA, CO – An estimated 100 Fruita residents, including children and many teens, attended a vigil at Fruita Civic Center Park of Friday, June 5, at 7:00 pm.
Organized by Hollie Dalenberg and featuring a short roster of official speakers as well as an open mic invitation to anyone in attendance who wanted to speak, the vigil was cut short after about an hour when powerful winds and an impending storm rolled into the Valley and darkened the skies above the crowd.
Dalenberg, a white local resident who says she is also of Cherokee descent, introduced the first speaker, Wells Fargo Bank Manager Eric Ward. In a soft-spoken voice that didn’t often carry well over the socially distanced audience, Ward spoke of kindess and the Golden Rule, of treating each other as one would like to be treated, and quoted extensively from Martin Luther King’s speech that includes the now oft-quoted line, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.From: https://time.com/3838515/baltimore-riots-language-unheard-quote/
Colorado Mesa University head football coach and Texas native Tremaine Jackson spoke next, and he was more candid about the challenges roiling the US, specifically systemic racism.
The last to speak was David Combs, a longtime local activist who’s lived in Grand Junction since 1980. He began by saying that he was tired, and went on to say that when he first arrived in the area forty years ago, he didn’t see “a whole lot of people who looked like me.” Forty years later, he still rarely sees people who look like him, and he’s clearly frustrated about it, as well as exhausted.
As the skies grew dark and the clouds gathered above, Combs beckoned for the audience further back to come just a little bit closer to the stage, while still maintaining social distancing. A volunteer quietly cranked up the amplifier behind Combs, and his voice boomed across the dark green lawn.
The wind roared over the vigil, but the rain arrived quietly. Combs spoke of feeling the pain of discrimination every day, of his and his wife’s fears for their young son. He shared the statement that the Grand Junction City Council released following a tense, yet polite meeting on Wednesday with local activists and citizens of color. He clearly didn’t think it was enough, but it was something.
A young local student asked to speak just before the vigil broke for the evening, and she offered an impassioned speech about wanting to continue to do more, listen more, and learn more. By the time the crowd started running back towards their cars in the end, the skies had opened and the rain began to pour.