By Jordan Stovka
As the sun set behind the Washington Monument Saturday night and the temperatures dropped to the mid-20s, a group of those dedicated to solidarity stood across the reflecting pool at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, warmed by the candles in their hands and the songs of resistance stored in their lungs.
The Wall of Light Candlelight Vigil hosted by the League of Unstoppable Women attracted an intimate group of peace advocates—both men and women, adults and children, of various ages, religions and ethnicities— to light candles in opposition to the executive order of banning immigrant entry from seven majority-Muslim countries that President Trump instituted Jan. 27.
Cassandra Schneider, 27, of Washington, D.C. attended the vigil in honor of the Muslim and refugee figures in her life and believes it to be an American’s right to be the voice for those who are forcibly muted.
“I am out here in solidarity for all of the Muslims that are in my life—both friends and coworkers— and for all of the refugees that I have worked with and for all of those that I know who are trying to get here so they can live a peaceful life,” she said. “I really think it is important as Americans to stand up for those who don’t have a voice right now.”
Rescheduled from Sunday to Saturday evening, the vigil was held just after the second Muslim ban protest march on the White House earlier that afternoon. The event prided itself on inclusiveness: welcoming Christians, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, refugees, immigrants, citizens, families, children and pets to unite for a common cause.
Coming from a family lineage of Holocaust survivors, D.C. resident Sarah Swift said the current refugee crisis resonates with her particularly painfully. She explained the vigil provided her and her husband with an opportunity to teach their three-year-old son, Elias, how to react positively to events of unrest occurring in the nation around him, regardless of who may be in the White House.
“I’ve worked here a long time and have seen different administrations, but never something like this,” Swift said. “I can’t choose what president he’s living under, but I can choose to do things like this to teach him what’s really right and wrong and what we need to hold on to.”
Attendees were encouraged to write words of healing and encouragement on a banner—the “Wall of Light”—laid on the ground, surrounded by candles.
Participants like Byron Blue-Francis Jr. of New Orleans, Louisiana translated their religious beliefs to marker and fabric in hopes of offering the nation ideas of relief and resolution.
“What I wrote is for us to become one nation under God and for us to allow Christ to be the foundation for all that we do,” he said.
In the midst of the crowd, a group of individuals led the others in song and powerful anthems. The words of “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “All You Need Is Love” grew stronger in response to the chilling winds that cooly bit noses, ears and fingertips.
Despite the solemn tone the vigil could have adopted, many attendees, like Lauren Brownlee, wore smiles on their faces. Brownlee, 34, explained how powerful maintaining optimism is in these situations. Such a mindset provides many revolutionaries with the motivation to fight on.
“There was a lot of positivity, which was great in this moment because I think many of us fighting for justice need that sense of positivity so that we can keep on engaging in resistance in the name of love,” she said.
Featured Photo Credit: An intimate group of advocates stand in solidarity of the Muslim ban to promote peace and healing in front of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (Jordan Stovka/Bloc Reporter)
Jordan Stovka is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.