These little lights of ours: Notes from the Unity Vigil

Unity rally in San Diego, Sunday August 13, 2017

By Eric George Tauber

Eric George Tauber

SAN DIEGO — Sunday night, the organizations Indivisible, Together We Will and the Interfaith Council organized a Unity Vigil in response to the White Supremacist rally in Charlotteville, Virginia. One woman, Hether Heyer was murdered and nineteen others were injured by a terrorist who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators in Charlotteville.  Before the San Diego event in front of the County Administration Building got underway, I milled about the crowd asking folks why they were there.

“We can’t let things like that go without speaking out. We can’t let that be normal,” said Phil Johnson.

“This kind of thing cannot be tolerated,” Yusuf Miller said. “We need to strike fear into the hearts of these people who think they’re emboldened enough to do something like this in broad daylight. Send them back to the crevice where they come from so that people can actualize the American Dream of freedom, equality and justice.”  –

Some attendees were there by chance such as “Maroon the Shantyman” a dapper pirate from the Maritime Museum, and a family with kids who were just enjoying the park. The gathering seemed like a great teachable moment to educate their seven-year-old daughter about the world’s ugliness and how to stand up to it.

Playing the devil’s advocate, I asked folks if they really thought this rally would make a difference.

“As a collective, yes, because these are happening all across the country. … It’s not that things are going to be different after tonight, although that would be lovelym” replied Sandy Cohn of Together We Will. “But we’re determined and we’re not going to put up with our country being taken away by people who think they’re better than others.”

When the speeches started, Congressman Scott Peters got the ball rolling. He spoke of his own father’s efforts to desegregate housing and exhorted us to keep fighting the good fight for justice and equality. Likewise, Yusuf Miller, an energetic speaker from  the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), cautioned that we should not be too quick to pat ourselves on the back because “resistance needs persistence.”

A feisty Brooklynite spoke of her childhood growing up among Holocaust survivors, seeing the numbers tattooed on their arms. Appalled by recent events, she has found her own voice as an activist with Indivisible.

Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center challenged all religious leaders to make a difference. “It’s not enough to preach love. We have to act upon the principles that we preach.”

The SD Women’s Chorus took the steps in harmony with “We are gentle, angry people;” the Civil Rights standard, “We shall overcome;” and Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ bout a Revolution.” And the Voices of Our City Choir, consisting of both “sheltered and unsheltered” denizens, led us in “This little light of mine.”

With his deep, resonant voice and infectious enthusiasm, Rev. Gerald Brown of the United African American Ministerial Action Council really got the crowd going as only a fiery black preacher can. In one accord, we chanted, “Love, not hate, will make America great!”

There were no reps from our Jewish community (which is a shondeh) so that’s when I stepped in. After conferring with the MC, I stepped up to the mic to sing Haveinu Shalom Aleichem in Hebrew, English and Spanish. Thank G-d for my voice lessons and background in showbiz.

Last night, people of different faiths, colors and persuasions came together to sing, to chant, to join hands and embrace one another in our differences. Together, we took a stand against those who would lynch and gas the lot of us if they could. Will our songs and chants really make a difference? It will do a hell of a lot more than silence.

On Tuesday night, the Jewish community has scheduled an anti-hate rally, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Lawrence Family JCC.

*
Tauber is a freelance writer based specializing in coverage of the arts.

 

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