Bowling Green residents gather to stand against white supremacy

Megan Gammons comforts her son after the ‘Vigil’ on Sunday night. “You make your president to be a role model for your children, however, we have a president who can’t even call out violence and nazism when it’s blankly obvious.” Gammons commented.

Emma Collins

Members of the Bowling Green community gathered together in Fountain Square Park on Sunday night for a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of Saturday’s white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Maureen Davis, a local activist involved with planning the event, said the vigil was a response to the violence that rocked Charlottesville yesterday when an alt-right rally turned violent and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, injuring many people and killing one.

“I was horrified,” Davis said, referring to the moment she learned about the violence. “I think everyone just wanted to come out and show this is not how they want their country to turn out.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center defines the alt-right as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack.”

Kristina Arnold echoed Davis’s outrage at the violence. Arnold, who also helped plan the vigil, said she viewed the rally in Charlottesville as a “tipping point” in the ongoing struggle between white supremacists and those who oppose their pro-white agenda. While white nationalists openly express their hatred of African-Americans, Arnold said there are others who still pose a threat.

“The more insidious things is there are people here who hold racist beliefs and don’t realize it,” Arnold said.

The vigil began at 7 p.m. as a crowd of over 100 people, some wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, others carrying homemade signs, congregated on the sidewalk of the park. After volunteers had passed out candles, Arnold began the event by welcoming the vigil’s first guest speaker, Carol Jordan, an instructor and advisor in WKU’s department of theatre and dance, to the stage.

“We will not go back in time to a place where people stayed in the kitchen, hid in the closet and stayed over the border,” said Jordan.

Jordan said she feels a responsibility to ensure African Americans receive equal treatment. She will never be able to undo the damage her ancestors caused, she said, but she and others can attempt to improve the lives of African Americans today.

“We owe it to all those who have been opressed, marginalized and killed,” Jordan said.

Like Jordan, Black Lives Matter activist Veronica Reed also called upon white people to help create change. She said it was unfair to expect only blacks to take on the job of dismantling a racist system. Without the help of allies, Reed said it would not be possible to create a place where racial equality exists.

“We need the blood, sweat and tears of white people,” Reed said.

After several other speakers, Arnold brought the vigil to a close by calling those who had gathered to take action. She suggested becoming a member or an ally of Black Lives Matter or working with the NAACP. She said people who wish to help can also advocate through their legislators and work to help pass the fairness ordinance in Bowling Green.

Arnold said the most important action anyone could take, however, was to continue talking and listening to each other in order to further the dialogue about race.

Kelly Zenn, a Bowling Green resident who attends Evergreen State College in Washington, said she was proud to see members of her community come together to support those affected by the violence. Zenn said she has attended numerous rallies and sit-ins in Washington, but this was her first time attending a vigil in her home city.

“I don’t think the power of vigils is necessarily that they face white supremacy head on and defeat it,” she said.

Instead, Zenn said she views the vigil as a form of self-care for those affected by the country’s violence. It also gives people who may be hesitant to join rallies a chance to show their support in a more peaceful atmosphere while still allowing them to take a stand.

“It’s showing of solidarity is very powerful as well and strengthens our movement,” Zenn said.

Campbellsville senior Jeremey McFarland echoed Zenn’s belief that vigils provide comfort to those who may need it.

McFarland said he has been fairly active in Bowling Green’s activist community. He has attended Black Lives Matter events and participated in Bowling Green Fairness events to raise awareness about the discrimination LGBT people face. He said he hoped the vigil provided some sort of comfort for those impacted by the rally in Charlottesville.

“Just seeing people come out, it just makes you feel more comfortable,” McFarland said.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]