Long Island Baptist church honors 10 Black lives lost with symbolic gravestones

RIVERHEAD, New York (WABC) -- Freddie Gray, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor are only a few of the names displayed on symbolic gravestones in front of the First Baptist Church of Riverhead.

10 headstones memorialize 10 Black lives lost to police violence, while in police custody, or as a result of racial profiling.

Pastor Charles A. Coverdale had received the idea of honoring these lives from a dream he had. He wanted to create a space where these names would never be forgotten and provide a space where people in the community can come pay their respects.

"I hope that after this experience we are creating to allow any individual that witnesses it that something might be stirred up in them," said Coverdale. "They might leave saying I need to do something to benefit myself and the world I live in."

Members of the congregation gathered from a distance to honor these 10 lives, by hosting an artistic presentation for public reflection. The gravestones are made from wooden canvases painted with a headstone bearing their name, date of birth, and date of death.

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"They're people whose stories have become a part of our lives," said John Mcauliff, participant. "Being here is a statement of support for this effort by Riverhead."

For the 10 lives displayed, 10 people spoke their names and shared their reflections as well as details about who each person was and the impact their life made for the Black lives matter movement.

"This is my home church, I've been coming here since I was born," said Melissa Roundtree, participant. "I came because this is important to me and I feel like it's more important now than ever that the younger generation be more aware of things that are going on, instead of things we've been told about. I feel like more people need to come out and bring awareness to things like this."

In no specific order, the names on the gravestones are Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Brown, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Breonna Taylor.

At night, the solar panel lighting illuminates the graves, so that at any time of the day people can visit and see the symbolic graveyard.

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