It's Monday and people have had a day to stop and think about all that happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The politicians from our President to the local Mayor have spoken with many calling out the white supremacists for promoting and engaging in unadulterated violence AKA domestic terror.
Barbara Simmons, Executive Director of The Peace Center in Langhorne, PA put out the word that there would be a gathering in Newtown on Monday evening at 7pm at State and Center Streets followed by a dialogue at the Newtown Friends Meeting House a few blocks away. It was advertised as a gathering at which we would speak up in unity, in harmony and in love.
I got there just after 7, parked down the street and joined a crowd that was holding signs expressing their hopes and love and singing Blowing in the Wind led by LisaBeth Weber. Barbara got on a hand held megaphone and read a short tribute to people of all faiths and then after another song asked us to walk on to the Meeting House.
It was crowded in the hallways, all the seats were taken and lots of people were peering down from the balcony to see and hear all that was said. Barbara began by saying; "I've never seen so many people here. This is what love looks like!"
She said;" we made a symbolic gesture at the corner where people could see us. But we are here to talk about, to confront the hatred. 400 years of white affirmative action. It's time to right the wrongs. "
She introduced Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy from Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley.
She said; If we're truly a caring community we not only show up to comfort the needy, but to afflict the comfortable. We have to stand up and speak out in a multiplicity of voices. We are lights everywhere. We can't just show up tonight." She mentioned her children including her two 18 month old twins and said; I'm doing this for my children. We pray with our feet. This is a long walk that we all need to support each other on. We are committed to this for the long haul."
Then she led a Hebrew song in English and Hebrew: Olam Chessed Yibaneh: I will build this world with love. You will build this world with love. And if we build this world with love; Then G-d will build this world with love.
LisaBeth then led the CSNY classic, Teach your Children .
Then a number of members of the Peace Center spoke about protecting their children and teaching diversity in area schools. Gail, Barbara's community dialogue partner who is a mother of six and a black woman from Newtown said that "nothing has changed from 40 some years ago to today. She said one of her daughter's saw her cry for the first time "As a woman of color young black women need to see a mother that is strong. I see power in this room. There is power in numbers. As we say to America in solidarity. We've had enough."
Barbara mentioned the importance of teaching about the "Pyramid of Hate." "It starts with micro-aggression's and at the top is genocide.
Another member of the Peace Center came up to the center of the Meeting House to introduce a lady he just met who was about to leave. Renee came with her daughter. She is a 93 year old s Holocaust survivor and she had sewn numbers on her skirt as a reminder. Her daughter helped her to the center and briefly told her story of keeping silent in the face of imprisonment and being sent to a concentration camp in France; Cermec. Her family was wealthy before the war and was able to buy her out with gold coins. Her daughter said her Mother found it scary when Trump started speaking against minorities and then about a Muslim ban. She told her daughter that first they, the Nazis, find a group to speak against. She's having nightmares now. She wears the badge to remember Building 36 and that she was prisoner number 14.
John made his way to the front and introduced himself to Barbara who announced that he lives nearby and just returned from Charlottesville.
John asked that; "You please show up! In Charlottesville they knew we were outnumbered. They surrounded us. They doused us with kerosene and threw torches at us including a woman in a wheel chair." He went on to say that he wasn't new to confrontations. But, "the hate that I looked at affected me forever. I didn't feel safe till I got home last night and cried."
"Just show up! If we had had all these people that are here tonight it would have been different. The police did nothing. There were pitched battles all through town."
LisaBeth led the audience in a rousing rendition of This Land is Your Land and then it was over. People introduced themselves to each other and moved around to see friends and share a few words. It was an amazing community building event.