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Lighting the way for immigrants and refugees

Lighting the way for immigrants and refugees

Citizens with lights gather at dusk to radiate love across Kearney community

Brock Madsen
Antelope Staff

Last Monday, on President’s day, citizens of Kearney, Nebraska rallied at dusk to show support and solidarity for immigrants and refugees of the United States.

Kearney citizens showed up to the event to lend their voices to the nationwide community of Americans who want to show the world that Lady Liberty still welcomes to her shores the sons and daughters of all nations who seek a better life.

Participants shined their lights, waved their American flags, raised their homemade picket signs and cheered with encouraging passersby, from about 5:30 p.m., until about 6:30 p.m., when most started to leave for home.

Sounds included voices who even worked themselves into such unanimous patriotic spirit that they’d chant or sing positive phrases and songs together, singing “This land is your land,” as Lady Gaga did at Super Bowl.

The rally was primarily in reaction to the executive order issued January 27, which banned the entry of immigrants and refugees from seven foreign countries.

The rally was organized mainly through social media in the form of the Facebook event, “Light the Way for Refugees and Immigrants” and the hashtag, #lighttheway. The name of the event got its inspiration from the lofty torch of the Statue of Liberty that guides those in search of freedom and opportunity to American shores.

The rally was held on the south corner of Central Avenue and 25th Street, around 5:30. Participants of the rally were encouraged to bring flashlights, candles, or other objects of luminescence as symbols of the event’s namesake and purpose.

Marchers showed a great amount of diversity. Members of both the younger and older generations were in attendance and individuals of various ethnicities shared their voice and presence.  The diversity supported the message that people of all kinds are welcomed by them and by America.

Photos by Brock Madsen Ralliers hold their flags and posters and wave at passersby, receiving some support but also some heckling.
Photos by Brock Madsen
Ralliers hold their flags and posters and wave at passersby, receiving some support but also some heckling.

Many individuals affiliated with the university showed up to lend their support as well. Members of multiple Multicultural Greek fraternities and sororities were in attendance, including Sigma Lambda Beta, Sigma Lambda Gamma and Lambda Theta Nu.

Assistant Professor in the communications department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Dr. Fletcher Ziwoya, who is an immigrant himself from the country of Malawi in Southeast Africa, attended the rally.

Ziwoya said he was touched by the demonstration put forth by his American brethren. “The peaceful protest was a message that immigrants and refugees contribute enormously to towns and cities across the state. So, the gathering made me feel loved and welcome in Nebraska and in the USA.”

One of the points of the rally in a small city such as Kearney, is that immigrants and refugees are not only found as topics in the news or present only in big cities, they are neighbors and valued members of all communities big and small across the nation. Ziwoya said, “It was great to see such a large number of people showing their solidarity in such a small place like Kearney. Immigrants and refugees are not in big cities only. They are here in Kearney working in education, retail, construction economic activities that keep this state functioning.”

Visiting Lecturer of the communications department at UNK, and a co-organizer of the event, Ashley Weets was beyond amazed by the turnout from the Kearney community. Weets said, “I was really proud of Kearney on Monday night. I didn’t know what to expect, but the event was positive, loving, and strong.
Weets said, “Right before the event began, the Facebook event page said 111 were going, and 163 were interested. I counted roughly 215 at one point and was blown away.”

Weets said four co-organizers took the initiative to put together such a display of support. “The goal was to provide a place for Kearney residents, and others in central Nebraska, to come together in a show of support and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant population.

“We held candles or flashlights as a statement that we wanted to ‘light the way’ as our Statue of Liberty has lit the way for so many wanting to come to America to grow and prosper.”

A couple participants of the Light the Way pro-immigrant and pro-refugee rally with their handmade posters.
A couple participants of the Light the Way pro-immigrant and pro-refugee rally with their handmade posters.

Founder of the Kearney Indivisible group and another co-organizer of the Light the Way event, Abbey Rhodes attended and lent her voice and spirit to the rally’s purpose. Rhodes said, “Migrants are woven in to the fabric of who we are, from small business owners, to college graduates, to military personnel, and more. This event was a rally to show Nebraskan immigrants and refugees that they are welcome here.”

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