Candles lighted at Fountain Square at the Sept. 15 vigil.Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios

The 860-mile Journey for Justice led by the national NAACP that began on Aug. 1 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. – where 50 years ago local and state law enforcement officers attacked civil rights marchers – ended on Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C. In solidarity with the present-day marchers, vigils were held throughout the country that evening.  Here in Evanston, about 75 people gathered at Fountain Square. Some held candles, others lighted cell phones when pre-autumn wind whiffed out their candles. The vigil was sponsored by the Evanston North Shore NAACP and the Omega Pi Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta.

“This evening we are here as a sign of support for those who are marching and for those who are marching in spirit,” said George Mitchell, president of the Evanston branch of the NAACP. The march had four goals, he said: creating national standards for use of force for all law enforcement agencies and passing the End Racial Profiling Act; ensuring through federal action that all students have access to safe, high-quality education, regardless of location or household income; prioritizing job creation and training and passing the Raise the Wage Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act; and restoring and strengthening the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Krissie Harris of Zeta Phi Beta said some states through which the marchers passed focused on certain aspects of those issues: economic equality in Alabama; education reform in Georgia; criminal justice reform in South Carolina; voting rights in North Carolina and youth in Virginia.

Mr. Mitchell elaborated on the necessity of the march. “We are all soldiers in the fight for freedom, justice and fair treatment,” he said, adding, “A question becomes, ‘Why the march and why now?’ The answer lies in several events which continue to be manifested in our American society that reflect racism, unfair treatment, abusive treatment, lack of understanding for some and deliberate attempts to suppress voting. As a society, we have made some progress toward social justice, but we still have a long way to go.”

Dr. Michael Nabors, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church, said he and Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue traveled to Columbia, S.C., and marched 22 miles with those journeying for justice. He said, “There are still issues of injustice that diminish the landscape of this beloved country of ours.”

The vigil concluded with the singing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome” and a benediction and dismissal by Reverend Debra Bullock of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.