A graduate of the Foxboro Regional Charter School concerned about racism and inequality gathered a group of people Saturday to conduct a walk around the Common to benefit education efforts.
Raphaella Mercier, 25, a town resident for more than 20 years, led a “We Will” Walk-A-Thon in hopes of spreading positivity and awareness not only in the Foxboro community, but to the world in a time of the pandemic, joblessness and what she called overt systemic racism.
The walk raised funds for the Equity Institute in Rhode Island which develops and implements solutions for building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning and professional environment.
Mercier said she feels everyone is in need of some hope.
During the event, attendees were asked to write down their promise to fight for racial injustice, equality, and human rights on the “We Will’ board.
“We Will promise to be a part of change and spread love,” one message read.
Mercier, a 2013 high school grad who earned a master’s degree in business administration at American College of The Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence, France, is an event coordinator and founder of “Events With Raph.”
Her goal during Saturday’s event was “for people to feel a sense of togetherness as we are supporting the black and brown community as one and working to benefit an organization that fights for change and equity.
I also wanted to encourage our allies who may feel like they want to help but don’t know how to. I wanted to provide people with a way to use their voice to support an initiative that is local and relatable,” Mercier said.
She said everyone can make an impact and it does not take organizing an event or attending a march to do so.
“You can make an influence by holding conversations about racism in your homes, holding your schools or workplaces accountable for injustices, and continuing to treat human beings with kindness, generosity, and an open heart,” Mercier said.
For her, “I realized that there are plenty of small local initiatives that do great work for their communities and that inspired me to do the same for mine.”
The event drew 50 participants, raising $6,300 which will go toward the Equity Institute’s program “EduLeaders of Color,” a diverse network of educators and community members focused on education, working at the intersection of all fields to unite, support, and empower people of color. The program provides in-person and virtual networking events.
Carlon Howard, one of the co-founders of Equity Institute who was at Saturday’s event, said the organization was grateful for Mercier and other participants’ generosity and commitment to act.
“It’s a blessing. We are grateful for the opportunity and to connect with some people who believe in our mission and stand behind our work. Just hearing the power of participation, we know that the money that was raised here will go a long way to continue the fight for equality and equity in our country,” Howard said.
Emma Sobieraski, a new Foxboro resident who volunteered at the event, said she was amazed at the turnout given just two weeks of planning, but said it was important because change is needed.
“It’s just great to see tons of different people coming from a different area, not only from Massachusetts, but Rhode Island also,” Sobieraski said.
Carole Harris and Judith Dormeus were among the participants.
Harris said she decided to participate to support the black community, be more active, and feel at peace.
“As a white person myself, it makes me feel sad that the country is waking up more and more (to racism). Thank goodness to the young people that are coming into our society who are making older people like myself more alert and aware so the bias of the white community can be relearned,” Harris said.
Brittany Morgan, 24, Foxboro, Brenna Blenkhorn and Layllah Duarte, both 24 and from Quincy, grew up together and all went to Foxboro Regional Charter School. As a team, they raised $1,474 for the cause.
Morgan said for 17 years of school she can remember two or three educators of color.
“This is something that we want to help elevate and promote in the education system. I am happy to help out and do my part to make sure that black and brown communities have proper representation,” she said.
Similar to Morgan, Blenkhorn has been to four different schools while growing up and recalls only two or three black teachers, but she said one of the teachers who had the biggest impact on her in elementary school was black.
Mercier said she has had similar experiences during her education.
“As a black woman, I have personally experienced inequitable access to education and resources. The work that EduLeaders of Colors does with their local public school system is working to ‘develop a pipeline of leaders of color’ who can address the lack of leadership of color at the decision-making tables and within classrooms.”
She said the programs help to instill educational equity which is something she believes is an essential start to demolishing racism.