War Memorial Hosts Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil


Roger Scully, president of the Grosse Pointe Ministers Association and cantor for Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit. Photo by Adrian Doan ’19.

Adrian Doan '19, Page Editor

Plagued by foul weather and organized within a few days, the GP/Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil to support the Charlottesville community still managed to fill the War Memorial Auditorium to standing room only, another success for the community group, Welcoming Everyone Grosse Pointe (WEGP).


The vigil was held on Thursday, August 17, only five days after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that inspired WEGP to come together with other community groups such as the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch and local churches.


The event was a challenge to organize due to the very short time frame between the conception of the idea and the date itself, according to WEGP President, and one of the event’s main organizers, Shannon Byrne. Complications also arose due to the foul weather and high expected attendance, but with support from numerous local groups, the organizers were able to continue the event as planned.


“It was crazy all week, but we had the support of so many community partners: churches, law firms, NAACP, League of Women voters, Grosse Pointe Dems,” Byrne said. “So we had a ton of community support behind what we were doing.”


The event was meant to bring the community together after the violence and hatred displayed in Charlottesville, Byrne said. To promote solidarity, the event was promoted as non-partisan and the organizers believed that no matter where a community members beliefs lay, they should come together for justice and equality.


“We need to come together as a community, the violence and the hatred in Charlottesville was horrific, but racism is happening here every day,” Byrne said. “This is a chance to come together and stand in solidarity with the victims in Charlottesville.”


Over 400 residents came together in solidarity to reject the hatred and violence and embrace justice in the face of the white supremacy movement. Many families came out to support the event bringing their children along. Kristina Acheson brought her four boys along to participate in the vigil.


“It’s important for them to learn how to be involved in the community,” Acheson said. “But also for them to understand the world we live in and to stand up against the hatred.”


Local churches and religious leaders in the community provided prominent guidance during the vigil, with the majority of speakers being affiliated with one religious group or another. One such church was the Grosse Pointe Memorial church, which decided it was important to stand up for love, justice, and equality, according to Associate Pastor Sarah Godbehere.


“We came to make a strong statement against hate and prejudice,” Godbehere said. “I think it was a wonderful event, it brought all the community together to work for those values of love and justice and equality, and it showed us we have a strong community.  


Many of the ministers led blessings and prayers for the attendees, while Rev. Areeta Bridgemohan, of Christ Church Grosse Pointe, told a personal tale of her experiences with racism as a child in Italy.


“They threw stones at me and hurled racial slurs at me,” Bridgemohan said.


Despite the stories of hate and violence, it was a message of love that prevailed. According to Roger Scully, president of the Grosse Pointe Ministers Association and cantor for Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit, he had a responsibility to the community to attend and spread that message.


“We are seeing the underbelly of some very horrendous things that are going on in our country and they are terrifying to me as a Jew and as a citizen,” Scully said. “As a member of the clergy in Grosse Pointe, I care about Grosse Pointe and I got an email saying will you please come pray with us; anything that gathers the community together and helps us to feel better about ourselves is worthwhile and I felt like I had an obligation to be there.”