I am a refugee from Ethiopia who has lived in the United States since I was ten years old. I was forced to flee my country during the civil war, and lived in several different countries before immigrating to the United States. At the age of fifteen, I became a naturalized citizen in an elaborate ceremony surrounded by hundreds of other newly naturalized citizens. I was happy because this country was the only home I had ever known where I felt safe and welcomed.
However, since Donald Trump descended the escalator of Trump Tower two years ago to announce his intention to run for President and described all Mexicans as “murderers and rapists,” I have been terrified that I would be forced to leave my adopted country, along with other immigrants and refugees.
Since he announced his candidacy and became president, the climate in the U.S. has become increasingly difficult for those who are minorities. When I saw what happened in Charlottesville this past weekend, I realized that my fear of being forced out of my home might become a reality.
Therefore, I had to become an agent of change and show my kids, my community and myself that I would not let hatred and bigotry win. I recognized that I must work to ensure that this country is safe and welcoming for everyone and is a home for those who need one, just as I did all those years ago.
This past Sunday night, a diverse group of more than 150 residents from Castro Valley, Dublin, Hayward, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Ashland and Cherryland gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Adobe Park in Castro Valley. The vigil was held to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of the Charlottesville, Virginia riots, the hate crime at the Dar-Al Farooq Islamic Center in Minnesota, and to stand up to racism and bigotry in all its forms. People brought signs and lit candles to show their support. We shared prayers, sang songs and expressed heartfelt thoughts and feelings with the gathered crowd. The feeling of community was overwhelming.
Recent events have demonstrated that now more than ever we must be tolerant, respectful, kind and understanding of each other. With all of these courageous supporters standing together, it’s clear that we can overcome any obstacle if we work together.
Valley Voices is a series of guest commentaries featuring Castro Valley’s community leaders. Feel free to submit your own story, or suggest others whom we should contact for a submission. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.