Photos and story by Enrique Geronimo / Contributing Writer
Local unity organization Murfreesboro Loves held a one-year anniversary celebration Sunday on the Murfreesboro Public Square in honor of the organization’s founding and the community’s willingness to fight against hate.
On Oct. 28, 2017, the Murfreesboro community joined together to stand against hate groups that had planned to rally on the square. In the days leading up to the scheduled rally date, there were actions taken that included boarding up storefronts, placing safety cones, spreading information about ways to stay safe and an organization called Murfreesboro Loves was founded.
Murfreesboro Loves began with a group of religious and community leaders that came together with a vision to peacefully fight the hate groups. The organization was one of the main moving forces behind the unification in the community, and it brought many people together. One year later, the effects were evident in the number of people present at the anniversary picnic.
Event coordinators and volunteers with Murfreesboro Loves began setting up around the square at 2 p.m. Inflatables were blown up, tables with various activities were set up, the food and drinks were unloaded and one of the finishing touches was a balloon arch put into place at the front of the square, welcoming people to the event. Right around 4 p.m., people began to trickle in and explore all the activities going on. The first two hours seemed to appeal to a younger crowd with activities such as the inflatables, face and rock painting, henna tattoos, caricature drawings and other arts and crafts.
There were some snacks like doughnuts, water and a traditional Middle Eastern pastry with a savory filing called “Moajanat.” There was also coffee, which was provided by the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol.
The Murfreesboro Cold Patrol is an organization that helps the homeless population in Murfreesboro, especially once the weather drops below freezing. They had two donation boxes that were overflowing with warm clothes that will go to people in need. They are always accepting donations and have many different volunteer opportunities. The pizza arrived shortly before 6 p.m., and no one hesitated to begin eating. There was more than plenty to go around, and everyone seemed to get enough, even though some took full boxes. There was also a “Good Ol’ Sloppy Top” food truck, serving food such as sliders, sandwiches and monster cookies.
Around 6 p.m., once most people had finished eating, there were several people speaking about this and last year’s events around this time. There was a moment of silence after the names of the victims from Saturday’s shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue were read off. Many children didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, so they continued as normal, but others stood or sat in silence, while some cried as they hugged their loved ones.
Ex-deputy mayor of Murfreesboro Jeff Davidson spoke.
“You have all accomplished what the federal officials in D.C. have been working on for years. Congratulations,” Davidson said. “We had an incredible victory a year ago. This is a very tough time in the world right now, but I still have hope. It seems all the Washington officials have forgotten the values embedded and embodied in our Constitution. Our nation’s democratic values are free speech, integrity, justice, equality, common good, respect and diversity. Nationally we need to rediscover those values, so thank you all for being here and embracing what makes our country so great.”
Next up was Staci Higdon, who is the owner of an antique shop in the square called Sugaree’s. Higdon was on the square in the days surrounding the planned date for the rally. She said her anxiety grew day by day.
“Once there were only a few hours left, the shop owners were walking around to see what had become of our town, taking some mental images because we didn’t know what we would come back to or what would be here,” Hidgon said. “There was a lot of hugging. People were making laps around the square praying. Every storefront was covered with plywood boards, but there were beautiful messages written all over them. Every prayer, every word and every hug felt like a spell of protection protecting our town.”
Katie Wilson, president of the Murfreesboro branch of the NAACP, also spoke, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
“To defeat hate, you show love,” Wilson said.
There was also a spoken-word poem performed by Reman Abulaban with hard-hitting lines.
“Isn’t America where you can be whoever you want to be?” Abulaban said. “Isn’t America the home of the free? Isn’t our home where we celebrate diversity, where our neighbors catch us in adversity? Do you agree? If you’re with me, put your fists into the air, because if we don’t take a stand for what’s right, then nobody will ever care. Let us love.”
The night was concluded by Lisa Lawless and her band performing a few songs that showcased the theme of togetherness. She sang lyrics such as “Don’t nobody know my troubles but God” and “We shall not be moved.”
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