On Sunday evening, August 13, Susan Pomeroy and Sue Sherwood from LUCC attended the Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg. This candlelight vigil drew people together within 24 hours of the tragic and deadly confrontations in Virginia. This gathering was organized by many local organizations, among them the Women’s March Pinellas Chapter.
It was a hushed atmosphere. Gradually 300-500 people of all ages gathered – silently walking across the park to stand together or sit on the grass and talk quietly – remembering, mourning. praying, and breathing deeply of the power of community. Many in the crowd quietly held signs as in the January marches: Love Trumps Hate, Black Lives Matter, We the People Can Resist. The Uhurus silently wove through the crowd with a sign and flyers for their mayoral candidate.
There were many inspiring speakers — County Commissioner Ken Welch and Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith among them — the crowd often breaking into applause. One shared that the violence of Charlottesville brought back memories of what it was like growing up in racially charged Florida decades ago, urging us to reach out to one another across the differences that divide us and claim common ground. City Council’s Darden Rice called us all to view again the photo of the car plowing through the crowd in Charlottesville and to look deeply into each of the faces there.
As the evening drew to a close, we were heartened by this caring community with the pink sky above us and the babies around us, cuddled and happy as we raised candles of hope for their future to be one of justice and peace. We lingered after the candle-lighting to hear the shared music and poetry – passion expressed in so many ways.
We were especially touched by Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El, who blessed us with one of the most ancient prayers in Judaism:
Yevarechecha Adonai u’vishmarechav
May All that is Good surround you and protect you;
Ya’eir Adonai panav eleicha v’chuneka
May All that is Good enlighten you, and may you then shine it on others;
Yisa Adonai panav eleicha, v’yaseim lecha shalom.
May All that is Good be your constant companion, and may such Goodness bring you, indeed bring to all of us, wholeness, completeness, unity and peace.
Click on any picture for a larger image.
Here you can see the Vigil from the front near the stage. Squatting down & holding the “Hate Has No Home Here” sign is Joran Oppelt, President of Interfaith Tampa Bay. The Interfaith statement to the community is immediately below the picture.
Interfaith Tampa Bay Statement
In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA and as members of Interfaith Tampa Bay, we feel it is imperative to make our position clear.
It is the mission of Interfaith Tampa Bay to build bridges between individuals and faith communities through shared dialogue and experience, heal ourselves and our society by serving the community and fighting injustice together, and effect change in our world by promoting non-violence and religious pluralism.
This amazing and beautiful country belongs to all of us, not just one race, not just one religion. And while we believe in the benefits of multiculturalism, a culture of hate is not sustainable for our city, our society or the planet.
We invite people of all faiths (as well as our atheist brothers and sisters) to join us in our stand and support for what is right and just for all.
We believe that by whatever name we choose – God, Allah, Creator, The Force – there is something that connects us all. And that unifying principle, that Golden Rule – no matter how difficult it may seem – is that we love one another.
It is time to send a message to those who would support a culture of hatred, fear and xenophobia (specifically white nationalism and white supremacy). It is time for us to share the antidote for those who would poison the minds of our children. The message is that your time is up and we are not willing to let you divide us or run our country into chaos. The antidote is love, acceptance, courage, non-violence and dialogue.
Interfaith Tampa Bay stands in solidarity with all who uphold these principles in Tampa Bay and beyond.
Peace be upon you, Shalom aleikhem, As-salamu alaykum.
The Board of Directors of Interfaith Tampa Bay
Joran Slane Oppelt, President
Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Vice President
Rev. J.C. Pritchett, Secretary
Rev. Doral Pulley, Treasurer
Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell
Rev. Katy Korb