‘Love trumps hate:’ Vigil remembers Charlottesville

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — The steady thump of drumbeats and jingle of tambourines echoed on Depot Street Saturday evening. Tucked away in the small, green corner of Gateway Park, members of Salisbury Indivisible and Women for Community Justice gave voice — and song — to the pain and hope they felt in the wake of Aug. 12’s tragic events in Charlottesville, Va.

“We hope that this gathering’s going to be very organic to help with the healing process,” Al Heggins, organizer and member of Salisbury Indivisible, said.

The vigil was in honor of Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed when a vehicle mowed down counter protestors last Saturday. Heggins said the vigil was also for “all the just fighters who have lost their lives” in the long fight for equality and equity.

“It’s all very present to us right now,” she said.

But the roughly 30 people attending the vigil weren’t just members of Salisbury Indivisible — they came from all backgrounds, for all reasons. Some even drove up from Concord or Kannapolis to take part. The group, though small, was no less determined to speak hope and positivity into the future of Salisbury, Rowan County and North Carolina.

They gathered in a loose circle, holding lit candles, singing and taking turns to share what they thought of Charlottesville and the recent boldness of white supremacists and hate crimes. But despite expressing their fear and worry, they were also determined to push forward.

“A lot of negativity has been going on,” Allison Parker said, “and love trumps hate.”

Parker stood with her mother, Leslie Parker, holding a sign depicting a white dove carrying an olive branch.

According to Parker, Salisbury Indivisible wanted to “move to action” to “instill hope and positivity.”

“We just want to stand as a united front,” she said.

Inside the circle, Heggins echoed Parker’s comment.

“I’m really just one of those people who believes that love will prevail,” she told the group.

One by one, those attending stepped into the circle and shared their thoughts on Charlottesville and racism. Others told stories of times in their own lives when they had come face to face with white supremacy.

One man shared that his father had been a member of the KKK, and when he himself became a minister and spoke out against the klan a cross was burned in his front yard.

Heggins talked about her feelings about growing up as an African-American in the South, surrounded by the Confederate flag. She had known people, she said, who loved the flag. And because she loved them she “swallowed the bitterness” it made her feel. It wasn’t until later that she learned to speak out.

The group called for an end to the symbol — and others like it — and the oppressive history it represented. It was time, they said, to move forward as one.

“It’s time to let it go,” Laurel Harry said. “…It’s time to stop tolerating bigotry.”

Harry is also a 1988 alumni of the University of Virginia, where last weekend’s violence took place.

“It was very hard for me to see that hate on the lawn and the rotunda at UVA,” she said.

After she spoke, Harry taught the group the school’s cheer. And while the topics were heavy, spirits were high as the group sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.”

They also shared what brought them out to the vigil. For many, it was a desire to see people who would support them and fight for an end to bigotry. Others said that back in the 1960s, citizens had been “handed the baton” of the Civil Rights movement, and it was their job to see it through.

“Love will always win out over hate,” Heggins said.

 Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.