On Sunday evening, August 13th, a Candlelight Vigil was held on the grounds of Traverse City’s Historic Court House. Organized by Betsy Coffia, the vigil was attended by upwards of 400 people or more, who in Betsy’s word,s “came not only to honor the memory of those killed but because we who are NOT targets of white supremacy, have a special responsibility in this moment to find ways to step up, to be the best possible allies in this fight against hate.” The vigil began by everyone lighting their candles and observing a minute of silence.
Among the speakers who addressed the solemn crowd were Holly T. Bird, local attorney and Tribal Judge, Civil Ground Coordinator for the Water Protectors Legal Collective in Standing Rock, and Executer Director of the MI Water Protectors Legal Task Force; Howard Lovy, Traverse City Jewish writer and editor on Jewish issues; Amy Shamroe, Traverse City Commissioner; Percy Bird, Councilman for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; and select members of the audience.
The speakers spoke from their hearts and reminded the listeners that our nation has a troubled relationship with racism, bigotry and religious discrimination that did not end with the Civil War or the abolishment of Jim Crow. It became more hidden, more insidious, but it is still deeply embedded in our society. That we all have the responsibility to ask ourselves, WHAT CAN I DO? Betsy stated that acting might look like a lot of things such as:
- Educating ourselves on the ways racism has been entwined in our history so we have a clearer awareness of our own history.
- GOING OUT OF OUR WAY TO read, listen to, watch the works of people of color, Jewish authors, immigrant and non-Christian religious observers, LGBTQIA folks who are telling us in their writing, and other ways, how they have been and are being impacted, and how we can stand and be active allies.
- Getting involved in organizations that are specifically focused on activating white allies in the most effective and skillful ways to fight racism and bigotry in all its forms such as Standing Up for Racial Justice or SURJ, ERACCE. On the local level, challenge people to support Kalkaska For Peace, and the Justice and Peace Advocacy Center.
- Paying attention to and calling out media that is biased in favor of people whose skin looks like ours, who refuse to call them domestic terrorists, when they do not hesitate to use the label for brown skinned attackers. We must hold them accountable with letters to the editor, using social media, twitter, etc.
- Ask ourselves what would we have done in the face of the Nazis in Germany. In the face of the dogs at Selma. We show who we are and what we stand for, by the ACTIONS we take.
Betsy brought the vigil to a close by asking everyone to reach out to someone they did not know, introduce themselves and share why they were here, and thank them for coming.