Bristow Residents Hold Vigil for Charlottesville Victims

| August 15, 2017 | 0 Comments | Community

Bristow residents gather to honor those whose lives were lost in Charlottesville, Aug. 12, 2017.

A group of Bristow residents held a vigil, Monday, honoring those who died in Charlottesville: Heather Heyer, who was run over by an alleged white supremacist, and Virginia Police Officers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, who died in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence.

The small vigil, which took place at Clareybrook Park in Braemar, was a way for the community to come together and spread love, and stand up to hate, said organizers.

“The events of this weekend really scared me. I felt that we needed to do something as a community to show solidarity and stand up to hate,” said co-organizer Laura Barrett.

No one knew the deceased but residents wanted to come out to publicly denounce hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and domestic terrorism. The vigil sent a message of acceptance regardless of race, nationality or creed.

During the vigil, the attendees lit candles, honored the victims and the injured, disavowed hate and called for peace. After a moment of silent, they sang Amazing Grace.

Children played a large part of the vigil, as many wanted them to participate and learn the value of unity.

“It’s up to you guys after your parents,” said one woman, leading the children in singing This Little Light of Mine.

Speaking out during the vigil, Josette Hodges thanked her community for being supportive of her as an African American woman and mother.

She said “love is stronger than hate,” and that they are stronger than what those who hate “can put upon us.”

Hodges brought her preschool age daughter and asked that she stand for a photo a teen wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.

Kristi Black was the initial organizer of the vigil. She said she wanted to provide an opportunity for the Bristow community to come together if they could not attend a vigil in D.C.

“I love that there are events in D.C., but I felt that we needed something close by so our neighbors can participate. It was a good opportunity to come together,” Black said.

The vigil was quickly organized and advertised. The organizers reached out to friends, neighbors from Braemar and those from the area who had previously participated in activism.

Bristow Beat did not advertise the event until 5 p.m.

However, they were not expecting to have a big crowd. They wanted to do something respectful and meaningful.

Black said she almost attended the counter-protests in Charlottesville. Ultimately, she decided against not to attend, fearing it would turn violent.

Vigil attendee Suzanne Nadau said that part of her motivation was part love and part a way to voice her disgust. “I’m outraged by the hate speech. I’m outraged by the white supremacists.”

Nadua blames the Trump administration and campaign for not making it clear to the extremists and bigoted groups have no place in the political discussion.

“Well, we want to show love, but we all know what brought us together,” Nadua said. “We’re not idiots, we’re not stupid, we know where that hate came from.”

Nadua believes many who advise the president hold bigoted views and that will not bode well for the future of the nation. She pledged not to say silent even if it sparks a backlash.

“In the 1930’s and 40’s when no one spoke up and what happened to the six million Jews? For me silence is not an option. I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up in that environment. I don’t want their children to grow up in this environment,” Nadua said.

Black and Barrett said they received only positive responses to their vigil, although they were saddened to read negative responses to the tragedy in other places.

In conversations before the vigil, residents discussed ways in which Western Prince William County was an accepting community and ways in which it still has far to go as race based bullying still exists in schools.

They disagreed with ways in which some politicians were using the tragedy for their own advancement, and said they aim to unite those form both parties to take a stand against extremist groups and see to it that Prince William does not tolerate that kind of bigotry.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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