“This vigil is not a victory lap; it is a call to action,” said Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Alysa Cisneros at the city’s Solidarity Vigil Against Hate on Nov. 15. “We will have created a culture of belonging, when every person feels safe, included, heard and respected.”
An estimated 100 – 120 Sunnyvale city dignitaries, police and firefighters, representatives from local service organizations and places of worship and community members gathered in solidarity with other California communities for United Against Hate Week November 13-19.
“We Stand United Against Hate” calls people to civic action “to stop the hate and implicit biases that are a dangerous threat to the safety and civility of our neighborhoods, towns and cities.”
“Most people experience exclusion as a death by a thousand small indignities,” continued Cisneros in her opening remarks. “When we become intolerant of quiet bigotry, we choke hate off at the root. Bigotry and hate should not be allowed to hide under the cover of our silence.”
Attendees at the candlelight vigil outside the Sunnyvale Community Center affirmed the statements made by Cisneros.
“Since I got here from Mexico in 1977, I’ve experienced all different kinds of discrimination,” said Sunnyvale resident José Leon. “I’m here tonight to support the anti-bigotry movement, to stop hate from fueling misinformation in the world. However little effect my single voice has, it gets amplified when we all voice it together.”
Marie Pham, Leon’s wife, came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975. Pham recalls a teacher advising her to change her Vietnamese name—Xuan-Lan, meaning spring orchid—to an easier-to-pronounce English name, further distancing her from her Vietnamese culture.
“I was bullied in school (in San Francisco) because of my limited English,” said Pham. “I almost got beat up in the girls’ bathroom.”
Mountain View resident William Kou arrived in Ohio from Taiwan with his family soon after the Vietnam War. He considers himself lucky that he didn’t experience violence in high school. He recalls that people didn’t know the difference between the Asian cultures.
“People just thought, ‘Asians are Asians,’” said Kou. “It sounds simple that we should all be for love, not hate, but it’s not. It’s not happening enough.”
People invited to speak at the Solidarity Vigil Against Hate included Sunnyvale School District Board President Bridget Watson; Priest Pandit Shashikant Upadhyay Ji from Shiv Durga Center, who chanted and spoke against hate entirely in Hindi; and the Rev. Hardy Kim from Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church.
“If we, the community of Sunnyvale, really want to drive out the evil of hate from our community, then it’s time for us to move beyond focusing on feeling love for others,” said Kim. “It’s time for us to give real love to everyone by establishing justice in our community.”
Kim quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” King wrote in a sermon included in his 1963 book Strength to Love.
King had earlier preached about love driving out hate in his well-known 1957 “Love Your Enemies” sermon.