BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Sunday evening a crowd of about 250 people attended the "Love & Unity" Candlelight Vigil at Peppertown Park.
Hosted by the Berkeley Heights Diversity Committee, [and organized by Michelle Greco, Karen Foote, Adam Goldstein, Jimmy Joseph, Kelly Manieri, Herman Matfes, Kathy Matfes], the vigil emphasized the power of love and words to bring about peace and draw neighbors closer together as they stand shoulder to shoulder against hate through the following citizens and leaders who spoke: Herman Matfes, Michelle Greco, Ayana Joseph, Father Andy Prachar, Pastor Rachel Phelps, Rabbi Yitzchok Moully, Mayor Robert Woodruff, Toiya Facey, Adam and Sydney Goldstein, Susan Poage, Ciana Joseph and Donna Aflalo.
As everyone stood with their candles listening to the inspirational words spoken, it was a young child that had the whole crowd in awe when he said, “I’m so tired of this, why can’t we just love one another.”
Father Andy of Little Flower Church spoke of the power of words of create, heal and unify, and he cautioned everyone to remember they also have the power to wound and bring division.
The Rev. Rachel Phillips of Union Village Methodist Church reminded everyone to celebrate diversity and to love one another, She quoted Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Rabbi Yitzchok Mouly followed and said, Let us all make this world a better place and spread light with each other and share throughout the community.
Luminaries lined a portion of the walkway in the park, while deep in the park attendees held candles. The names of those killed were read, there was a moment of silence and then others spoke. The message was one of love, caring, and spreading the light by sharing it with each other.
The following poem, "What is Strength," written by Kelly Manieri© was recited by Ciana Joseph:
What is Strength?
Strength is a smile to light ones path.
Strength is conspiring to extinguish ones wrath.
Strength is seeking to build, lift and empower.
It resides within us daily; giving a choice to change every minute, every hour.
It is freedom. It is love. It is light. It is kind.
It is encouraging others to see when they are blind.
Compassion, respect, filling hearts and minds with hope.
Paving the way for another, offering them the courage to cope.
A hand to hold, a warm embrace.
Jubilantly celebrating the differences that exist in this, our human race.
Power in togetherness, a devotion to fiercely protecting all sisters and brothers.
Nurturing our children. Be champions of peace and harmony, we call out to all fathers and mothers.
Respect and understanding, a bedrock for unity.
It is in your house, my house, our house that we must instruct love and dignity.
Strength is empowering others, stretching out our hearts and hands.
It is a ballad that lifts the soul, a sonnet that lifts the spirit. And love is what it demands.
Strength is you, me, we, tilling this garden that is life.
Touching others as if a ray of sun. Passionately eliminating the weeds of strife.
Combating hate. Trouncing animosity at every turn for all humankind. Opening up the depths of our soul, freeing the prejudices of our mind.
Strength is together, letting no other divide.
It is standing with, not against. Building others up with unending pride.
Strength is the vanquisher of those who seek to hurt, discriminate, damage or fracture.
Cowardly acts of hatred must be thwarted. To eliminate a hating mind and heart, oh the rapture!
Our house must remain strong, mighty each and every hour.
No more, no more, no more hatred. Stand up! Be firm, be fierce. Do not deny your unifying powers.
Welcome. Embrace every member of this our human race.
Be a beacon in our world that lifts, unites, and empowers all without haste.
Do not leave this world in a state of chaos and let cowardly acts of hatred prevail.
Seize your opportunity. Walk in this world as a hero or it is all humanity who fails.
What is strength? It is you, me, we, choosing to be all that is generous and kind in this our human space.
What is strength? It is you my friend choosing love, compassion, understanding, acceptance and grace.