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At Heather Heyer’s Charlottesville Memorial, Her Mother Reminds Us Of the Important Work She Died Doing

A memorial for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman tragically killed by a white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, was held today in Charlottesville, VA. You can watch the entire service above.

Several people spoke to the paralegal’s activism against injustice, but it was the words of her mother, Susan Bro, that really shook me to the core. She placed value on the work her daughter did, and in spite of being in pain and grieving the terrible loss of her child, she also understood that her daughter was fighting for something much bigger, and that Heyer’s death shouldn’t be in vain. Heyer would want the fight to continue, and now her mother does, too.

In the video above, Bro says, “Here’s the message. Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile. And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord, is because we know that what she did was achievable. We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her.”

The room erupted into applause.

She continues, “You ask me, What can I do? So many caring people…I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy. You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see and want to turn away?”

After talking about how we shouldn’t be afraid to stand up to injustice out of fear that we’ll “annoy” people, or make people “uncomfortable,” Bo acknowledges that sometimes there can’t be forgiveness and there is going to be anger. However, rather than allowing that anger to turn into hatred or violence, Bro suggests, “Let’s channel that anger into righteous action.”

She also, in a very mom way, talked about what a difficult child Heather could be, and how difficult it often was to be on the receiving end of Heyer’s activist rants. But, she emphasized, there was always love. And unlike other parents who might have ignored or rolled their eyes at a child’s activist tendencies, Bro listened.

Now, she seems determined to encourage the continuation of her daughter’s work in others.

Both Heyer and Bro are amazing examples of what can and should be happening all over the country. White Americans especially need to do the hard, uncomfortable work of confronting systemic racism and rooting it out wherever it lives. You are more than capable of it.

I wish I could’ve known Heather Heyer. From what I’ve learned about her over the past couple of days, it seems like we would’ve totally been able to hang. Rest in Peace, Heather. Thank you for not staying silent or complacent, and for teaching us all how to do more.

(via PBS News Hour, image: screencap/PBS News Hour)

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