MONTCLAIR, NJ - For the 4th year, the Montclair-based organization S.O.F.I.A. held a candlelight vigil on Monday focusing on remembering loved ones, supporting survivors and promoting unity throughout the community.
Nearly 75 people gathered at Crane Park in Montclair to continue bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence.
Domestic violence has no racial boundaries, as was evident by the diversity in the evening's attendance gathered in circle formation. Many attendees were holding the signs of their loved ones who had died from domestic violence.
Among those lives lost were the following:
Elizabeth May Eaddy
Cynthia Walker, the founder of S.O.F.I.A., welcomed all that attended and shared a brief history of the vigil, its purpose and the services offered by the organization.
"You're advocating to help eradicate domestic violence," Walker continued, "S.O.F.I.A.'s focus is on awareness, prevention, healing and education."
Walker also announced that S.O.F.I.A. has been accepted into the Allstate Purple Purse Challenge. One of 220 organizations nation wide awarding the winner more than $100,000.
Following the welcome, Walker invited City of Orange Councilman Elroy Corbett, who is also a certified counselor and a member of Divine Men of S.O.F.I.A, to say prayer. He then spoke briefly of his involvement with the organization and the importance of men's involvement.
"Divine men of S.O.F.I.A., our whole purpose is to support the organization and to get more men involved to create a bigger impact in bringing awareness to domestic violence and to let woman know that not all men are abusive."
He added, "It's about control and its documented that high rates of domestic violence occur in homes headed by police, military and religious clergy. The challenge is to get people to a point where they feel safe enough to come out of silence."
Community partner and founder of The Dressing Room, Kakila Hunter said, "You know that domestic violence does not have any type of bias. It doesn't matter about your race, creed, color, your gender, healing can take place when you start talking." She suggested talking as a family or going to therapy, if needed.
There were others in attendance who work with teens. Wanda Edwards, SOFIA advocate and Domestic abuse survivor, is part of the safety and dating team who visit local schools in educating teenagers on the warning signs of domestic violence.
She said, "Many don't know that there is help and many don't know they are being abused." Edwards pointed out that vigils and meetings are important in getting the message out and possibly becoming an advocate.
Albert Pelhem, Director of Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC) and president of the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, stated, "The mission of the organization falls in line with what we do in both the NAACP and MNDC, in serving the community . While im not an expert, there is a hidden population that needs to be served and organizations like SOFIA provide a safe haven and we are here to support her efforts and work as it aligns with what we do."
Friends and family members of Shanae Howard were in attendance. Howard was murdered in Canterbury Park in 2013. She had been shot by her then-boyfriend, in a murder-suicide.
Her mother, Errica Howard-Rush said, "It's important to me, as my daughter was murdered. Raising awareness is a must [because] too many young girls think it's cute and end up being in abusive relationships."
For information on the organization and upcoming events, visit www.supportsofia.org.