‘Unite the Light’ remembrance walk honors sacrifices made 5 years ago in Charlottesville
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Many gathered at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville Friday night to honor and remember the sacrifices made five years ago during the Unite the Right rally.
Four local faith-based organizations, including Charlottesville Clergy Collective, Beloved Community Cville, Congregate Charlottesville, and the African American Pastors Council, organized the walk in recognition of the stand many in the community took against racism and white supremacy five years ago.
The walk started at First Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in Charlottesville, where many went seeking help days after white supremacists caused violence throughout the city.
“It was just, we knew our worst nightmares were coming true. We knew there would be deaths,” Jalane Schmidt, with UVA’s Democracy Initiative Memory Project, said. “We knew there would be deaths the next day. We didn’t know who, when, where or how, but we knew that not everybody was going to be coming back.”
From there, hundreds marched to four other locations, including spots where community members gave first aid and supplies to those injured during the chaos.
“The folks who were most affected on 8/11 and 8/12 were everyday citizens,” Christina Rivera, with Congregate Charlottesville, said. “They were everyday community members. It wasn’t like the people who came together has some special training or purpose. They were going about their everyday lives and showing up for liberation.”
While those two days have permanently stained Virginia’s history books, out of the darkness came light.
“On this particular day, while I’m wearing the exact same shirt that I wore five years ago, we all are menaces to supremacy because, again, we’re here, and they’re not,” one speaker said during the walk.
Many at Friday’s walk felt the statues this conflict was based on finally coming down was the start of progress that has helped with the healing.
“For me, personally, I feel like I’ve turned a corner from being there five years ago where I can be in these spaces and celebrate the progress that we’ve made,” Rivera said.
As the vigil ended at the spot where Heather Heyer was tragically killed, organizers said they’re now turning another page, ready to celebrate the work yet to be done.
“It will always be a mix, you know, there’s never going to be a celebration of 8/11 of 8/12, but we can certainly remember the sacrifices and move forward in the work we need to do,” Rivera said.
Rivera said Congregate Charlottesville has a fund to help those still injured or dealing with mental health issues from what took place five years ago.
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