Photo: Belmont Stands in Solidarity with Charlottesville event Monday, Aug.14
In the growing dusk of Monday evening, Belmont residents came together to light the way back from fear towards hope.
After a weekend of violence and death in Charlottesville, Virginia that shook the nation and on the night a 17-year-old suspect vandalized a glass panel of the Boston Holocaust Memorial, more than 200 residents came to the front lawn of the First Church Belmont at Concord and Common on Monday, Aug. 14 to raise their voices in prayer and song to start a collective healing and understanding.
“Belmont is a safe and welcoming community, and its citizens stand in solidarity against injustice and hate,” said Donna Ruvolo, founder of The Stand-up Campaign which organized the town meeting “Belmont Stands in Solidarity with Charlottesville” in less than a day with the assistance from Belmont Against Racism, the Belmont Religious Council, the town’s Human Rights Commission and the Belmont Police.
“That’s our town. That is who we are,” she told the gathering.
Ruvolo said the disturbing images from Virginia where an organized force of alt-right and white supremacist clashed with counter protesters after a decision by the city to remove the statue of Confederate Gen Robert E. Lee from a park in the center of the city.
“The events from this past weekend were so disturbing to me and everybody in Belmont,” said Ruvolo.
“We needed to connect and felt that in a very short time we could get the word out and bring people together in solidarity with Charlottesville,” she said, noting that while Stand up seeks out proactive events – its first action was Hands Around The Pond this past December – “it was imperative that we took a stand on this one.”
After a poem was read by Wellington 4th grader Hazel Donner and a musical solo from clarinetist Marguerite Levin, Rabbi Jonathan Kraus of Beth El Temple Center spoke on how to respond when confronted by the “darker side of our humanity” present over the past few days.
Krause said people should remember the wise words of those who had faced “tests of faith, humanity and hope,’ such as Martin Luther King who said ‘Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that.’ When confronted by those who are “yelling, ugly hateful words,” one must “keep your humanity while others have abandoned theirs.”
“Believing the world can be better, that we can be better, to look with compassion, to open our eyes to the ugly, often disturbing face of fear and anger and somehow not turn away, but instead with compassion, give a piece of ourselves,” said Krause.
While scary to do so, “it’s also a measure of courage, patience and, yes, faith. The faith of keep showing up to light a candle in the darkness.”
The night’s event ended with Carolyn Howard of First Belmont’s choir leading everyone in stanzas of the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
Ruvolo said the outpouring of support from those at the event and from those who could not attend was “overwhelming.”
“To see this number of people was outstanding,” pointing out the diversity of the crowd, “from those with differing religious backgrounds, cultural and ethnic background, different ages from people who brought babies to our seniors,” she said.
“It’s a testament to who we are in Belmont that there was this outpouring of support to stand against hate and violence.”