FOXBORO — About 200 local residents came together for a night of singing, games and socializing on the town common Thursday night in what was billed as a gathering to “stand united against hate.”
Local Jaycees sponsored the event, which included inspirational speeches, music and group singing with songs promoting messages of peace and togetherness. Organizers said they hoped the evening would serve as an antidote to counter tension and prejudice.
“It’s a beautiful night for people to get together on the common,” said Jaycees Vice President Linda Walsh. “I hope that in the future if someone’s tempted to say something negative towards another person, they’ll think back on tonight.”
The event, which was not referred to as a rally, was organized in the aftermath of recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. and a highly-publicized incident in Foxboro in which a black mother reported that she and her two young children were the subjects of racial taunts by a passing driver.
The Rev. Ed Cardoza of St. Mark’s Church, addressing the crowd, said those who oppose hatred and racial prejudice cannot remain silent in the face of hateful rhetoric.
“Words matter,” he said. “When we hear words that go against the values of our community, we need to publicly state that those words are not acceptable. Let us say very strongly that hate has no place in this town.”
On a balmy evening, children and adults milled about the common chatting and listening to music from a disc jockey. Attendees were offered the opportunity to sign pledge cards against hatred. A “speed friendship” game similar to musical chairs was played in which players were told introduce themselves and chat with their neighbors whenever the music stopped.
The gathering also attracted local politicians including state senate candidates Ted Phillips and Paul Feeney, who spent time conversing with bystanders.
The Jaycees’ Meg Nelson read a statement from U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III who also urged those who oppose racism and hate to speak their minds.
“In moments of deep division and distrust, we draw strength not from those who choose silence but those who refuse to be silenced,” he said. “Because the leaders of our march towards equality and tolerance have always taught us that we are a nation that is strong because of its diversity. To all of those standing united against racism, anti-Semitism and hatred in any form, please know that you are seen, you are heard and you count. America belongs to you.”
Debbie Stuart said she hopes Thursday’s event promotes awareness that racism and intolerance can be a danger in any community.
“This is a good thing to do,” she said. “People have rose-colored glasses on. If you can’t see it, it’s on you.”
Doug and Christine Thayer said they were glad Foxboro had an event to let them and others express their feelings.
“People here are united against hate,” said Doug. “I’m glad there’s someplace local we can go.”
Kevin Mack said he doesn’t understand the mentality that allows some people to consider themselves superior to others merely on the basis of religion or skin color.
“To degrade someone because they are different than you makes no sense,” he said. “We have to step up and say ‘I won’t accept it,’” he said.