Community members lit up the streets with candle lights in hand on the evening of October 25 at the Annual Domestic Violence Vigil.
For nearly two decades two processions converge at the 90th Precinct of the New York City Police Department (90th Precinct). One procession consisting of representatives from St. Nicks Alliance and United Neighbors Organization (UNO) convened at 140 Johnson Avenue, also known as the Emma Feliciano building. The building was named after a late St. Nicks Alliance staff member who had her life taken by her husband in the year 2000.
The other procession included North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence (NBK Coalition), Southside United HDFC – Los Sures, the NYPD, and representatives from the offices of NYC Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez and NYS Assembly Member Maritza Davila. They began their trek at Continental Army Plaza (South 4th Street and Roebling).
“Two of our colleagues got killed due to domestic violence, Emma Feliciano and Nancy des Grottess. So every year, I do the Domestic Violence vigil with the support of my team,” said Janice McKnight, a staff member at St. Nicks Alliance. “Don’t be afraid. If you see something, say something,”
One member of UNO, Teresita Aguilar, said, “We come [to the Domestic Violence Vigil] every year and it’s very important for us to speak up for the people who keep quiet and feel shame about what they’ve experienced.”
Protesters, some who are domestic violence survivors, turned heads with powerful chants while marching down their route, many passersby even raising their fists and cheering on the group in solidarity. Among the incantations were: “Hell no, hell no, Domestic Violence has got to go!” and “No más silencio!”
“The assemblywoman has been a strong advocate and passionate fighter against domestic violence, as she herself had been a victim for over ten years,” said Evette Lopez, spokesperson for Davila. “It’s a sad reality that far too many victims have lost their lives at the hands of their abusers and those who have survived are recovering from physical, mental, and emotional turmoil. We need to discuss preventative measures and restorative justice practices to address the matter before and after it occurs. It simply starts with us.”
The impressive turnout filled the entire front entrance of the 90th Precinct where survivors and supporters made speeches that touched the hearts of all.
“You can’t control anyone, but you can control what you accept,” said one survivor named Arlene. “Forget about changing him or her. Change you. Once you change yourself, you have the strength to do whatever you want.”
Arlene said that the event was important to her because it showed her that she isn’t alone. “There’s more out there than our sorrows. There’s actually hope after this. There’s a new life.”
Other speakers included Janet Brown, co-chair of the NBK Coalition’s Board of Directors and St. Nicks Alliance employee, and Juan Ramos, executive director of Los Sures.
As a survivor of domestic violence, Brown shared a poem she wrote called Love Doesn’t Hurt. “If you really love me, if you really care, any type of abuse is something you would not share,” she recited.
Juan Ramos used his speech to discuss our responsibility as a community in ending domestic violence, “While we want to thank the precinct for their work, the reality is that the work that needs to be done is done in our communities. Our community needs to step up and say no more to domestic violence,” he said. “We’re the ones responsible for ending violence against women, children, and men also.”
He also took a moment to appreciate the men who showed up to the event. “[Men] are part of the problem in domestic violence, and we also can be part of the solution in ending domestic violence.”
The vigil was closed with a moment of silence for lives lost at the hands of domestic abusers and a prayer led by Evelyn Cardona, founder of the NBK Coalition.
“[This event] gives support. It shows the community: no more violence,” said Cardona. She also stressed the importance of helping not only cisgender and heterosexual women, but the LGBTQ+ community too, especially transgender people. “It’s a long process in the making, but we’re here.”
“It is vital that both as elected officials and individuals we are doing everything in our power to ensure we are protecting our community members and not enabling the re-victimization of survivors,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence at 718-302-4073 or email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For your convenience, an email form can be found at northbrooklyncoalition.org/get-help.