This year, Women in Black statistics have broken our hearts and all previous records: At least 60 women and men have died outside or by violence in King County through November. To reckon with this injustice and remember those lost, we stood with friends, supporters, and faith community leaders on the Solstice, the Longest Night of the year, which was designated “National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.” We gathered at sunset (4:20 PM) at our Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park, then silently walked through the Market to Westlake Park, where we stood for an hour-long vigil. Afterwards, we gathered together to share and remember those lost.
Reverend Pat Simpson’s words from the ceremony:
“Friends, we have gathered here on the longest night of the year. Long before people knew about the Earth’s tilted axis and its orbit around the sun, they understood these rhythms. In our northern latitudes the nights grow longer until we reach this hinge moment. Though spring will be a long time coming, the turning begins now, toward the light. Hope begins in darkness.
In that spirit we remember the dead this night—60 people who died while homeless in our community during the past year. They were our neighbors, and in some cases our friends and kin. Many died heartbreakingly young, many by violence or accident. Even deaths we might call “natural” cause us to lament – for no one should have to die without shelter and safety. No one should have to live that way.
We will remember these sisters and brothers with the simplest of rituals. Their names will be read, and we respond to each one by saying “We remember you.” One by one around the circle we’ll light a candle for each person as the name is read. Please hold your candles until all the names are read, and then I’ll invite you to place them around the Tree.
Now, please take hands with your neighbor, or make eye contact as a sign of our unity. We are one community. All kinds of people, all kinds of circumstances—we share the turning seasons, the sorrow of all this dying, and the outrage that fuels our action.
May we also be blessed with hope this season, so that in the growing light of days to come we will have strength to build a kinder world.”