Good evening. My name is Mark Tenn. I live here in Rutherford, with my culturally blended family, and I’m a member of the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission here in town. On behalf of the Commission, a heartfelt welcome to you all and thank you for being here this

Unfortunately, it’s less than a year since we gathered together like this. Last summer we assembled and marched for black lives. And we did so in pain, and in sorrow, and in fear, and in anger. And we did so — despite the pandemic — because we’re 400 years deep into this other public health crisis called racism.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves. We learned how our community responds to intolerance and injustice. We learned to ask questions we’ve never asked before. We learned just how important it is for the diverse members of our community to speak with
one voice in rejecting violence and hate. We shared, and we listened, and we acknowledged, and we loved, and we acted. All things, of course, we continue to wrestle with.

But we also know — all too well — that in any town, or any city, or any state, that there are those who don’t share our values of acceptance and inclusion. That there are those who will exploit the most dire of circumstances, in the most heinous of ways, for their own selfinterest.

So here we are again, brought together once more by this familiar pain.

This time, we stand in solidarity with our Asian and Pacific Islander families, friends and neighbors — both here and across the country — who face escalating violence, harassment and exclusion because of simply who they are. As we were last summer, here we are now, again, with the same sorrow, the same fears, the same anger. So again we must listen. Again we must share, and acknowledge, and love. And again we must act.

There will be time to take action. But tonight, this vigil is a moment to simply take some care. To pause and acknowledge the pain. To remember Asian victims of hate, especially those killed in the terrible violence in Atlanta, Georgia. A moment to think about all those
who endure the brunt of anti-Asian hate, xenophobia or violence in their daily lives. To remind ourselves that if these things are not part of our own personal experience, it doesn’t mean they do not, or could not happen here. And we are here in this moment to say that if hate, xenophobia or violence is perpetrated against you in your personal experience, we are here with you, and you are not alone.

We condemn these vile attacks. We condemn their offenders. We reject the racist rhetoric that fuels them and we stand firm with our Asian and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters. Rutherford is rich with people like all of you who have joined us tonight. This is where we choose to be. Where we choose to live our lives and raise our children. There is passion here. There is good character and quiet courage. We are grateful for these families, friends and neighbors of ours.

So we call on all our diverse communities in Rutherford and beyond to be vigilant to the many ways that anti-Asian prejudice and bias affect us, and to unite, in solidarity, against all forms of bigotry and hate. We know we have a way to go, until all of us, feel this is a place, where we are safe. And accepted. And dignified. And respected. But it’s nothing less than each, and every one of us deserve, regardless of who we are, or where we come from.

Thank you.