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Charlottesville walking vigil sparking change together

On Friday, Aug. 12, the Charlottesville community gathered at the First Baptist Church on West Main St and took part in a one-mile “Walking Vigil of Remembrance” by visiting five locations where five years ago protestors stood against the hate of white supremacists.

At each location, local leaders offered prayers, songs and words of history to the activists, organizers and survivors of the deadly rally.

One of the event organizers and the founder of Beloved Community Cville, Elizabeth Shillue, hopes that the vigil will present a powerful affirmation to together create and change for the better.

“It eases something in one’s heart and gives one hope to know that we can move past and we can recommit to creating the beloved community within Charlottesville,” Shillue said.

Shillue also emphasized that the long-term impact of the vigil, which will be held annually, will be to maintain consciousness about the horrible attack in people’s minds because “it’s easy to forget.”

“It’s important that the people who were here – who have the lived experience – who are impacted by it are the ones that speak to the truth of what took place here,” she said.

Participants had a chance to walk by the Jefferson School, Market Street Park, Congregation Beth Israel and round out the event by reflecting and praying on the Heather Heyer Way.

Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms was standing in the middle of Market Street Park. Brown-Grooms and speaking about the power of love.

“That [love] ruins hate when we make the decision and when we join hands and hearts and consciousness, the thing that we wait for will come to pass,” she said.

On the path from Congregation Beth Israel to Heather Heyer Way, Rev. Phil Woodson was leading the people by singing songs. The crowd followed and was synchronized in the vocal performance.

Once they gathered at the final destination, the singing and prayers transitioned into an empowering speech by Dr. Wes Bellamy.

The city council candidate initially reminded everyone of the sacrifice that those killed and injured in the rally unintentionally provided.

“Now we have to ask ourselves, what level of discomfort are we willing to endure for the betterment of everyone else,” he said.

But Bellamy capped off the speech with a message of encouragement for the entire community.

“Let’s not just leave here sad, let’s leave here fired up, willing to go sacrifice something. I hope you all join us in doing so,” Bellamy concluded.


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