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Winter Solstice Candlelight Vigil for All 2013 Homeless Deaths
December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the longest night. The National Coalition for the Homeless designates it “National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.” On this day, WHEEL (a grassroots organizing effort) and Church of Mary Magdalene (an ecumenical ministry) will stand a special one-hour, candlelight, Women in Black vigil to remember all the homeless men and women who have died this year outside or by violence in King County.
This year the death rate among homeless people has been EXTREMELY high; almost twice the rate of death as last year. As of early December, at least 51 people died have outside/by violence in 2013.
Please join us for our Women in Black Solstice activities, which start at sunset (4:20 PM) at our Tree of Life! Women and men are welcome; candles are provided, and we’ll join together for a post-vigil gathering to share stories, fellowship and comfort.
For more information: WHEEL (206) 956-0334 email@example.com
WHEEL and the Homeless Remembrance Project invite you to gather at our Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park at 8:30 PM Tuesday, July 23rd, just before sunset. AT sunset, 8:55 PM, we’ll sponsor a brief Ritual to honor and remember those who’ve died this year, and then we’ll have an inspiriting Call to Action!
This Sunset Ritual and Call-to-Action are part of a 24-hour-long demonstration at Victor Steinbrueck Park (north of Pike Place Market, noon Tuesday, July 23rd to noon Wednesday July 24th) sponsored by a coalition to Occupy the Committee to End Homelessness in King County (CEHKC). For more than a year, Occupy CEHKC has worked to get the Governing Board of CEHKC to get real, and to support survival shelters including encampments, car camps and other innovative efforts that keep people alive TONIGHT while we wait for affordable housing.
We’ve now found out that the July 24th CEHKC Quarterly Governing Board Meeting has been CANCELLED due to members’ vacation schedules. We will proceed with our 24-hour demonstration at Victor Steinbrueck Park, since for homeless people, there’s no holiday.
Here’s why: At least 25 people have died outside or by violence in King County already in 2013, compared to just 13 deaths in the same period in 2012. This year so far, three homeless people have been murdered, three died by suicide, one person burned to death, one drowned, and one woman was found dead of hypothermia in January, on the night of the One Night Count of unsheltered homeless people. Nearly a quarter of the deaths this year have been women. These stark facts should shock the conscience, and spur us all on to doing more to provide survival shelter to all who need it.
We urge you to join us next Tuesday and Wednesday at Victor Steinbrueck Park. In addition to the Sunset Ritual at the “Tree of Life” we urge you to attend a Rally of our Coalition at 5:30 PM Tuesday, July 23rd and again around 7:30 AM Wednesday morning, July 24th, when we will march from the park to a nearby meeting location and facilitate our OWN End-Homelessness Meeting.
Thank you for your support and solidarity!
MEMORIAL DAY CALL TO COMMUNITY
WORDS OF WELCOME
Bless you for coming today! I welcome you on behalf of the Homeless Remembrance Project, and all the people— both homeless and housed—who worked to create this beautiful Tree of Life gathering place.
On Memorial Day people gather in many ways. We remember those who died in wars. Families take flowers to the graves of loved ones. Clans and clubs and neighbors gather for picnics, celebrating the life and relationships that go on, even though some are missing from the table. On Friday the Chief Seattle Club led a walk through town to this park, affirming the close connection we who are living have with those who have journeyed to the Spirit World.
Our gathering here at the Tree of Life also affirms that connection, with 45 people who were homeless, and who died outdoors or by violence since last Memorial Day. Surely there were others, whose names we do not know. Today we will lift up their names, and then we will celebrate life that goes on—as a community determined to reach that day when this kind of dying ends, and everyone is safely sheltered.
Let us pray: God of Life, of Love, of Justice—you walk with us, sharing our grief and anger each time someone dies for lack of the help and safety a compassionate city should provide. Today we remember these who were homeless in our community, who died outdoors or by violence. This circle of small stones marks a place for each one, reminding us of their place in our hearts, and their place in your eternal love. Hear us as we call out their names, responding, “WE REMEMBER.” (Names are read by five readers, and the response is given each time.)
Under the Tree of Life you see a circle of small stones—45 of them representing the people whose names we have just called out, and a few more whose names we do not know. As a way of honoring and remembering these sisters and brothers, I invite you to take a stone and put it in your pocket. Carry it for the days ahead. Each time you find it there, remember what we have done today. Give thanks for the lives of those we honored. And call to mind those who are vulnerable and facing hardship now, living without safe shelter. May these small stones be a guard against forgetting. May they be a sign of commitment and hope.
CALL TO COMMUNITY
In Sunday’s paper we found these words from Drew Gilpin Faust, author of the book This Republic of Suffering. Speaking about the origins of Memorial Day after the American Civil War, she says:
“I like to think of Memorial Day as being created together by a nation rather than a single town or individual. You have to remember that probably half the Civil War dead were never identified because there were no dog tags or official next of kin notifications. It was a shared loss in the sense that so many dead belonged to everyone because they weren’t identified as belonging to any single one. These were also not the kinds of deaths that society believed were appropriate at the time.”
This speaks to our situation today. We will bring an end to homelessness only if we band together as one community with shared determination. This is proving to be a long struggle that belongs to us all, and for that we need ties that hold us together. These moments when we look back in memory and look ahead in determination. Leaves of Remembrance that honor the dead by name around the city. This Tree of Life that stands for hope. Most of all, our shared commitment to the work of compassion and justice that will restore our community so that everyone has a decent, safe place to live and thrive.
As we break bread together, sharing food and music, building relationships, let us celebrate the power and potential that is here when we come together. May it be so!
Memorial Day 2013
Call to Community Celebration
On May 27, 2013, approximately 200 people gathered at the Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park to celebrate a Call to Community with the Homeless Remembrance Project. The event began with a brief and moving ceremony, followed by music, food, and mingling.
December 21st, the longest night of the year, is designated Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day by the National Coalition for the Homeless. WHEEL/Church of Mary Magdalene Women in Black will sponsor a special vigil on Friday, December 21st naming all the people we’ve stood to honor and remember during the year. This year, we’ll begin our Winter Solstice Vigil at the Tree of Life (northeast corner of Victor Steinbrueck Park) at sunset, 4:21 pm. We’ll light our candles there and carry them to Westlake Park, where we stand vigil at the corner of 4th & Pine for an hour, from 5 to 6 PM. Then we’ll have a meet-and-mingle at the Josephinum, at 2nd & Stewart! Please join us for this special annual event.
Victor Steinbrueck Park is north of Pike Place Market. The Tree of Life is in the northeast corner of the park.
The vigil at Westlake Park is at 5th & Pine.
The candlelight march route:
On October 21, 2012, we celebrated
and dedicated the Tree of Life!
Seattle Parks & Recreation: Tree of Life Project Information Page
Other news coverage: