Flagler Beach, FL – As society continues to grapple with social justice issues, devastating events are taking place that drive home the fact that humans still have a ways to go when connecting with each other.
The photos of the women murdered in Atlanta on March 16th were on display around the fountain in Veteran’s Park on Saturday morning. Those gathered under the palms listened to messages of love and pain, wrapped in a plea for kindness and understanding for one another.
“For far too long these crimes have gone underreported, and they’ve been missed. I wanted those women to have a face, a name and that we would all just stand in remembrance of them,” said Jill Reynolds of holding the event. “The fact that they’re gone meant something to me, and I know that it means something to other people.”
Organized by the Democratic Women’s Club of Flagler County, Reynolds, who serves as club president said events like Saturday’s Stop Asian Hate Daylight Memorial come with an open invitation to the community.
“Maybe this can be the start of something better,” she said. “Gun violence is an issue and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Independent or a Democrat. We specifically made this a nonpartisan, nonpolitical event for that reason. So maybe if, in the future, if people see something and are willing to come out, we just want to have a space for people to come out, mourn and be amongst others that are like-minded.”
Pastor Kathy Rickey of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ormond Beach implored the community to celebrate each other’s differences with compassion during her opening prayer.
“I hope people take away the importance of being in community with one another and understanding what it means to love one another,” said Rickey. “(It’s) that agape love – it’s a Greek term and it refers to a transcendent love. And, that we emphasize the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, a world in which justice for the oppressed wouldn’t be necessary because everybody would be treated and live justly, in this world.”
It’s those differences that Asian-American Elizabeth Gustafson shared through tears. Handed down stories from her grandmother and mother were told, and she recounted her own experiences growing up.
“A lot of people grew up with people of color but don’t realize a lot of us assimilated to fit in with you. We changed the way we spoke, the way we acted, but when we went home, we got to truly be ourselves. I’m hoping that with all that stuff going on, that just because you were never that way to someone, (be aware of) some of these microagressions that other people say and you might have thought it was a joke. Look where it led us to.”
It was a chance to share experiences that had been kept hidden and she hoped more people from the AAPI (Asian American, Pacific Islander) community would feel empowered to share their stories.
“It’s funny because my parents are actually conservative, but my mom she’s Korean and it really shook her,” shared Gustafson. “At first she was like ‘the China virus is just something people are saying’, but now she’s like ‘oh my God, I actually see what it is doing’, so it created a lot of awareness and room for me to speak more freely to her because she was the one telling me, keep your head down, keep to yourself, just don’t cause any trouble. We did that but this still happened.”
“I’m hoping that because there are more Asians speaking up around the U.S. that we will actually see a change in the way we’re treated.”
The ceremony closed with the releasing of rose petals into the ocean in honor of the victims.