As protests over the death of George Floyd continue across the country, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital staff and patients, along with all six of the Island’s police chiefs, gathered outside at the hospital’s healing garden to participate in a nine-minute kneel-in in recognition of Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died after former police Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee to his neck for almost 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The kneel-in was led by hospital administrative director Thaddeus Thompson, who was joined by his wife Sheryl Taylor, and their daughter Leelyn Taylor Thompson. The family held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “All lives cannot matter until Black Lives Matter.”
Motioning to the police chiefs who attended the kneel-in, Thompson said, “A number of people doing bad things is not reflective of the entire community.”
“The expectation with all of this is equality,” an emotional Thompson said. “It takes all of us to step up and not be willing to accept any of those actions, to recognize those actions, to call those actions out.”
Those attending applauded Thompson before taking a knee in silence.
After the kneel-in, hospital CEO Denise Schepici said she was proud of the diversity and values at the hospital, and that the Island’s hospital should be an example for the whole community. “Thank you all for being here today and all you do,” Schepici said.
Down the road, Eugene Jemison stood at Five Corners holding up a sign reading “I can’t breathe” as several passersby honked in support.
Jemison, whom The Times wrote about in November when he got married at the hospital, said he was there because of his son. “It’s happened so many countless times,” he said of innocent, unarmed black people being murdered. “I have no answers for my 7-year-old son.”
After the news and video of Floyd’s death, Jemison said he spoke with his son about race, but at times was at a loss for words. “It sickens me to my heart to have that talk with my son,” he said. “We have to do better. I have no respect for racists at all.”
Meanwhile, the Dukes County Commission adopted a social justice resolution Thursday. “The Dukes County Commission joins with Americans across the country in affirming the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, to make visible the pain of our fellow Americans as they condemn extrajudicial killings of unarmed African Americans,” the resolution states.
Tristan Israel, chair of the Dukes County Commissioners, said, “There was really no debate about it.”
Commissioner Keith Chatinover, who proposed the resolution, texted that the stance is in accord with the Island community. “Our community has spoken loud and clear that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I’m glad the County Commission affirmed its support as well,” he wrote. “Of course, that is just a start. We must all become better allies to the black communities on Martha’s Vineyard.”
Chatinover also encouraged folks to buy from black-owned businesses on the Vineyard.
Similarly, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services issued a statement on antiracism that acknowledged the systematic racism that has gone on for generations.
“Here at M.V. Community Services, we believe the dignity, health, safety, and well-being of individuals and families we serve are rights, not privileges. Our clients and our staff are ethnically and racially diverse, and we view our mixed backgrounds and experiences as a source of strength. We are better educators, clinicians, and counselors not in spite of our differences, but because of them,” the statement reads in part. “This is a moment to reaffirm our values. These are times that test us to our core. Know that here at Community Services we hope to always be a resource and a place to find strength in community.”