Nine black churchgoers were murdered during their Wednesday-night Bible study in Charleston, leaving the nation grappling over racist violence. In the immediate aftermath, vigils and rallies to commemorate their lives began sprouting up across the country: in D.C., the Bay Area, and Tallahassee. On Tuesday, there will be a similar event in Fort Lauderdale.
“South Florida needs to respond,” local activist Cassia Laham tells New Times. She's part of the People's Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism (or POWIR), an antiwar group that organizes in South Florida. “It’s last minute, but it’s a necessary reaction to something, to racism and racist violence. It’s important to have South Florida join this bigger movement.”
Social-justice activists are gathering at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday at 6 p.m. “The area is a historically black community, and we wanted to have it here, in a community that unfortunately has experienced this,” Laham says.
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At 6 p.m., there will be a vigil to remember each of the nine Charleston victims. They plan to block traffic on Sistrunk Boulevard for nine minutes. If that isn’t possible, demonstrators will hold nine minutes of silence. It is expected that members of local churches will speak too. “We all want to commemorate the victims in some way,” Laham points out.
Afterward, there will be a rally and possibly a march. (Details are still being worked out among several participating activist groups.) There will definitely be sign-waving and chants. Anyone who opposes racism and what happened in Charleston is invited to attend.
“This is definitely a moment for unity,” Laham explains. “It shows what side you are on: Do you support communities of color, or do you stand in the way?”
The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center is located 2650 W. Sistrunk Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Those looking to attend can follow the event on Facebook.