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Prayer, Song And Drum Beats: Indigenous Groups Show Solidarity For Black Lives In Boston

Isaura Oliveira dances around the marker at the site of the Boston Massacre, in front of the Old State House, during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy demonstration. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Isaura Oliveira dances around the marker at the site of the Boston Massacre, in front of the Old State House, during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy demonstration. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This was not simply a protest.

On Wednesday afternoon, a demonstration called Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy used Indigenous prayers, song, dance, drum beats and chanting to beckon their ancestors, move the crowd and stand together against centuries of oppression.

Protesters march down Congress Street with umbrellas toward City Hall Plaza during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy demonstration. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Protesters march down Congress Street with umbrellas toward City Hall Plaza during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy demonstration. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Throughout the march, moments of ceremony and ritual emphasized that the fight for Black, Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous lives are one.

About 100 people gathered in front of Faneuil Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
About 100 people gathered in front of Faneuil Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“It is time for everyone to acknowledge that this is a stolen land in a nation built by stolen peoples. We wish to express our solidarity with movements for Black lives and against police violence," said Mahtowin Munro, spokesperson for Indigenous Peoples Day Massachusetts and United American Indians of New England (UAINE) in a statement. "Our people have also been on the streets here and elsewhere to those demands, because of our centuries of ties with our Black relations and because our Native communities also suffer a disproportionate impact from police violence. Politicians and others who now say they want to work for racial justice need to ensure that Indigenous voices and perspectives are included in the work, not erased or silenced.”

A member of the Sistahs of the Calabash sprays water around the site of the Boston Massacre, a ritual to begin the celebration of song and dance during the march. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A member of the Sistahs of the Calabash sprays water around the site of the Boston Massacre, a ritual to begin the celebration of song and dance during the march. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Though smaller than other recent actions, the representation was vast and diverse.

Chali’Naru Dones, of the United Confederation of Taino People, blows through a conch to signal the beginning of the march to Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Chali’Naru Dones, of the United Confederation of Taino People, blows through a conch to signal the beginning of the march to Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) event began in front of Faneuil Hall, a building named for merchant and slave holder Peter Faneuil.

Protesters stop at the site of the Boston Massacre to hold a celebration of Indigenous song and dance. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Protesters stop at the site of the Boston Massacre to hold a celebration of Indigenous song and dance. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Streets were blocked to make room for people holding decorated umbrellas with messages like “Dismantle White Supremacy” and “Black Lives Matter.”

A protester stands with an umbrella while listening to speeches in front of Faneuil Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A protester stands with an umbrella while listening to speeches in front of Faneuil Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A protester applies white tape on an umbrella spelling out the words “Dismantle White Supremacy” before the march. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A protester applies white tape on an umbrella spelling out the words “Dismantle White Supremacy” before the march. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Organizers set an altar at the site of the Boston Massacre where Crispus Attucks was killed, along with a large black octopus puppet. Each of its eight tentacles represented a system to dismantle, such as capitalism and white supremacy.

In addition to Indigenous Peoples Day Massachusetts and United American Indians of New England, other organizations taking part included representatives from the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), United American Indians of New England, United Confederation Taino People and New Democracy Coalition.

Protesters leave the plaza of Faneuil Hall to march down Congress Street toward Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Protesters leave the plaza of Faneuil Hall to march down Congress Street toward Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Though each group has its own goals, they came together to demand change. Beyond the removal of all symbols of white supremacy, they want an increased investment in BIPOC communities and to abolish the police, said Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the board of directors at NAICOB.

A young girl uses a Black Lives Matter sign to block the sun. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A young girl uses a Black Lives Matter sign to block the sun. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“I hope that people walk away and feel not only in solidarity, but definitely enlightened about all of the diaspora and the richness of our communities," Pierite said.

Protesters march towards City Hall Plaza during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Protesters march towards City Hall Plaza during the Dismantle Now! BIPOC Solidarity Against White Supremacy. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“Indigenous and Black liberation is entwined. Our solidarity with our Black Sisters and Brothers is firmly rooted in breaking the chain of atrocities from the inception of the U.S. project. We stand. We rise. We demand that Black Lives Matter," said Mea Johnson, vice president of the NAICOB board, in a statement. "We are out here fighting for freedom and liberation. We could not be more supportive of Black folks across the country and the world. We say #BlackLivesMatter today and everyday. We will never stop fighting in support of BLM.”

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Cristela Guerra Twitter Reporter
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for The ARTery.

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