On Sunday, August 11th, I found myself terribly lost in my emotions and fear, trying to stay away from the media, wanting to shield myself from the after-shock.
However I soon received an invitation to a vigil in honor of the victims of the Charlottesville attack. All I was required to bring was an open-mind and love. On my drive there, I encountered a house in the Historic Garfield Neighborhood that had the word “Hope” hanging in large blue letters on the front gate. My anxiety subsided for a moment, something told me that there were good things to come. I felt that I shouldn’t give up on humankind just yet.
The vigil was hosted by Indivisible AZ, The Women’s March, Resist Here, Working Families, Democracy for America, as well as Progressive Change at Phillips Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in the heart of downtown Phoenix. I arrived to find the tiny church of no more than fifty feet in length, packed like a can of sardines. I was incredibly impressed by the turnout, seeing as it was organized and advertised in only a day. The positive energy of the crowd was apparent from the minute I arrived.
The pastor and all of the other speakers wanted to focus on love, courage and activism as a community, rather than the harsh and gory details of the tragedy. I appreciated the air of positive change and social justice in the air.
One of the first memorable quotes of the evening was from the residing chairman of Black Lives Matter Phoenix, “In the end, love wins.” I felt doubtful at first, but then I realized that we are still here.
Despite all of the evil and tragedy, there is so much more love than hate.
Time and time again our communities come together to pick each other up, dry tears, and give us something to believe in. As for me, I believe in the unadulterated love I felt on this day.
Three rows ahead and kitty-corner to me sat a woman with her fussy toddler, across from her a complete stranger offered a bag of cheerios she had packed for her own children. Halfway through the sermon the ushers once again passed iced water down the pews. Taking care of each other somehow, I felt safe despite being surrounded by a hundred strangers. Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter addressed us with a request.
“I ask that you make a commitment – that we not allow hate to harm us in this community, we not allow hate to exist in this community. Second commitment – I ask that you grab someone who doesn’t look like you, give them a hug and tell them you love them.”
This mutual agreement has created a shield over us, a protective bubble made from each of our individual courage. Tara Ijai founder of The Love Glasses Revolution exclaimed,
“It’s overwhelming for me to see this turn out. This is my America.”
People of every race, gender, age and religion sat in front of her, a hundred of us. Outside the doors of the church, gathered in the streets, are a hundred or two more. Each speaker delivered their soliloquy inside, and again via megaphone for the masses outside.
I ducked out of the church halfway through to find them, signs of love raised high above their heads, listening quietly. The Arizona sun beat down hard, the shadow of the peoples’ power-fists cast on the asphalt. There on the corner of 14th Street and Adams, I found my courage.
After a tragedy like this it can be very difficult to dust yourself off and keep going.
Terrorism does exactly what it says, leaves you in terror, which can be very hard to recover from. This is where love and community come in, we must all band together, strong ones supporting the weak as we stand up for what is right. If you are feeling lost after what has happened, turn to your loved ones and your community for support. On Saturday we were all wounded, and now we come together to heal.
Images via PresleyNassisePhotography
Also published on Medium.