Organizers from groups such as Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), Coalition of Anti Racist Whites (CARW), and Jewish Voices for Peace, worked in solidarity with leaders in the black community to organize vigils in Seattle. While leaders in the Black community held a vigil at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood of Seattle, over 70, mostly white, activists organized a candlelight vigil at Westlake Park. According to a leaflet passed around at the event, “As white people, we are committed to speaking up and taking action against this and other deadly attacks on black lives from the murder of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and so many more.”
From a statement put out by the organizers…
“Vigil Participants Call On White Communities to Show Up for Racial Justice
On June 18, community members gathered to mourn and extend solidarity to the people of Charleston, South Carolina. This vigil was organized in response to the murder of nine Black community members in a Charleston church, killed by a young white man.
A group of over seventy people, primarily white people, gathered at Westlake for a vigil in solidarity and mourning with Charleston. This vigil was organized by members of Showing Up of Racial Justice (SURJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW), as well as concerned community members. It was open to all and aimed primarily at white folks calling on their own communities to mourn and be in solidarity and coordination with the movement for racial justice across the country and locally.
Folks gathered with signs that said, “Black Lives Matter,” “white silence = white compliance,” “White people: what will we do to change our legacy of violence?” They lit candles, held ten minutes of silence for the lives lost in the Charleston Shooting, as well as Black lives targeted by racist violence, and sang. At the closing, Jewish Voices for Peace lead two prayers, the mourners kiddish, the prayer for mourning and the mi sheberach, the prayer for healing.
This action was organized in conjunction with numerous Black-led vigils happening in Seattle — as white people committed to showing up for racial justice, we were called to encouraged to organize this vigil to reach our broader white community. There was a black led vigil earlier Thursday night a 6:30pm at First Methodist Episcopal Church. There will be a vigil Friday evening, June 19th, organized by Black Lives Matter and the NAACP at Pratt Park (20th & Yesler).
Participants reflect on the experience…
“I’m here tonight first and foremost to grieve the loss of lives through this most recent act of terrorism against black bodies, and to show up with other white people who are committed to both owning and ending our legacy of racism, since it isn’t a thing of the past. The massacre in Charleston is part of a continuum of everyday violence that black people face in this country, and the time is now for us to act.” – Kelsen Caldwell with the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites
“The Charleston massacre is yet another expression of the legacy of white violence and genocide in this country – a legacy that all white people are responsible for interrupting. This is a white problem and it is time for white people to say, “Not in Our Name!” Dylann Roof was not a lone, psychopathic killer. He was acting out of the racist beliefs and practices that run business as usual in this country – beliefs that tell white people we are safer when Black people are locked up and killed. These lies cost Black people their lives and dignity on a daily basis, and white people lose our integrity and our humanity when we sit silently by while our Black community members are being dehumanized and murdered in our names. I lovingly call all white people to speak up and act on the right side of history – with all black, brown, and white people demanding dignity and justice for Black people and a world in which Black Lives truly Matter. ” – Briana Herman-Brand, community member
“The tragedy of the shooting at the Charleston AME is a manifestation of the racism that is so deep and widespread throughout our society. Jewish Voice for Peace is committed to ending white supremacy. White supremacy kills.”
– Eva Dale, Jewish Voice for Peace – Seattle
“For me it was after waking up and hearing the news about the shooting that happened in Charleston it was really important to come and grieve with people. To show up and take responsibility and to understand that white people have a real problem on our hands. It’s our responsibility to imagine and co-create a society that is not based in white supremacy. It really feels like we are failing, letting white supremacy rear its ugly head all over the place, “
-Ross Kirshenbaum, community member”