At a moving candlelight vigil, organized by the Rockaway Women for Progress (RWP), locals from all over the peninsula and Broad Channel packed into the Beach 94th Street plaza to show their solidarity for peace on Tuesday, August 22.
The crowd — religious and political leaders, young people, seniors, families with kids, couples, people with their pups in tow, some holding signs and others even on their bikes, peacefully lined the boardwalk and filled the plaza — all united to mourn the victim who died when a man linked to a white-supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a "Unite the Right" rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jean Belford, one of the organizers of RWP, opened the rally by saying, “We come together in the spirit of solidarity and peace. In Rockaway, we are bound together by the sea, happy summers and shared tragedies such as 9/11, the plane crash and Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re here tonight to be what we have been in the past, good neighbors. If Neo Nazis or KKK clansmen came to spew their hate on Rockaway or as my stepfather would say, ‘God’s little acre,’ we would be waiting with a shared message: Not here in our beloved Rockaway. We live in worrisome times, and there is no time for complacency. We are complicit, if we don’t react,” Belford said.
After the National Anthem was beautifully sung by Sheila Cassidy, Fern Zagor spoke about her parents who were both Holocaust survivors, and the fighting spirit they embedded her in as a young to child to always stand up for injustice. “My mother, after being beaten, left for dead in a concentration camp, swore that she would not let another holocaust happen again. After settling in the U.S., she joined the Women’s Strike for Peace and with other freedom fighting women like Coretta Scott King, attended the Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1962.
“The lessons I learned from my parents is that although there is evil, good will prevail, but you must fight for it,” Zagor said.
Other speakers at the vigil included Wendell Wooten, who spoke about the need for society to accept each other’s cultural, ethnic, political and religious differences; Marva Kerwin gave the prayer and Josette Grippo led the call for action.
After the prayer, as dusk began to fall, Kerwin called on everyone to light their candles or light up their cell phones. “Shine your light, take pride in your community and understand that we are all connected,” Kerwin said.
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