The Rev. Nathan Hollister left his clerical collar in the car.
It still reeked of the pepper spray he said a white supremacist sprayed on him in Charlottesville, where Hollister said he saw from 15 or 20 feet away a car head into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.
“Solidarity means risk, taking on risk,” the Unitarian Universalist minister told about 250 people Sunday night outside the old Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough
“For me, I had to travel to Charlottesville to take on risk,” Hollister said, “where my brothers and sisters of colors, and my queer brothers and sisters, don’t have to travel anywhere to be subjected to white supremacy.”
The Hillsborough rally, organized by Town Commissioner Jenn Weaver, was one of three in Orange County, the others in Carrboro and at Silent Sam, the Confederate monument on the UNC Chapel Hill campus. Rallies also took place in Durham and Pittsboro.
Weaver, a yoga teacher, asked everyone to inhale and exhale before opening Sunday’s rally.
“What happened yesterday was shocking,” she said. “But it should not have been surprising.”
“And now more then ever,” Weaver said, “we must stand strongly, firmly and loudly when necessary against white supremacy,” Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and ICE raids and inhumane deportations.
Black and white speakers urged the crowd to join those on the front lines confronting prejudice and violence that black people and others continue to fight daily.
Several speakers referenced the months-long effort to ban the Confederate flag in the Orange County Schools. The school board, which recently delayed a vote on a new policy on divisive symbols, meets at 7 p.m. Monday at Stanback Middle School.
Latarndra Strong, the Orange High parent who founded the coalition after seeing a Confederate flag in the student parking lot three days in a row, asked what it will take to defeat racist violence.
“I wonder, if nobody had lost their life (in Charlotteville), if it had just been a mass of white supremacists with guns on their shoulders, passing their ideas on to people, if we would be here today,” she told the crowd.
“Racism is a cancer,” she said. “It’s killing our nation, and we have to get serious about it.”
For Margaret Herring, who registered voters in Mississippi with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee, the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, echoed what she experienced firsthand.
“At time we felt we were in a war with the Ku Klux Klan,” she said. “The police did not protect us. We were shot at, we had our cars run off the road and our offices and church burned to the ground. When we went home from a meeting we never knew if we would see each other again. ... And make no mistake, black people have been living with racism for hundreds of years.”
In 1968, someone threw dynamite at the house that Herring lived in with her husband and infant son.
Nearly 60 years later, she feels like she’s reliving history.
But she encouraged the crowd on Sunday to give their all.
“Once you realize that you’re willing to die for what you believe, then death, and the threat of death, has no power over you,” she said.
Schultz: 919-829-8950; @HeraldSunEditor