Organizers looking forward to hosting more events, gatherings 

Between 80 and 100 people gathered in Sebastopol’s Plaza last week, on July 5, to collaborate on a community art project and hold a vigil for those who have lost their lives at the hands of police brutality. The vigil, organized by Sebastopol teens Dezi Rae Kai and Lume Dorado, was meant to be a different outlet for folks to express their emotions surrounding violence against people of color, and calls for police reform.

“Everybody processes in a different way. So for me, having a vigil where people can come and see their (each other’s) faces, light a candle and be a little bit more calm and take a moment of silence, create art and say what they want to say is also a beautiful way of processing things,” Kai said. “Everybody has their own way of handling things and their anger and their rage.”

Those attending the event were encouraged to create and bring their own signs and art to attach to a fence near Sebastopol’s Plaza and, after the sun set, participate in a candlelit vigil.

While Kai said that she understands wanting to express anger and rage in a vocal way — she hosted Sebastopol’s largest Black Lives Matter protest in June — she hadn’t seen very many opportunities for people to work through their emotions in a calmer setting. The energy she felt from organizing the June protest inspired her to try to organize another event. Kai said that she received some funds after holding the protest and wanted to put them back into the community, and was thinking about what to do when she received an email from a former teacher.

“I got an email a few days later that was about this project from one of my former teachers and she was saying that she knew someone who wanted to do an art project … I was like, ‘maybe I should just mention that I want to do a vigil as well’ and we can combine them and make one giant event,” Kai said.

One of the students that her teacher directed her to was Dorado, who said that she connected with the idea of holding a vigil because she too recognized the need to build a safe space for people to express their grief.

The pair of events were put together in less than two weeks, and one of the things that surprised Dorado the most about the process was how many resources were available.

“Me and Dezi pulled this off in less than two weeks and we spent about $45 on this project,” she said. “We had no idea what we were doing and no plan. It was a lot of calling people and a lot of emails. It was a hell of a lot of work, but also I just feel incredibly grateful for how much there is out there just waiting to be used.” 

“Everybody there was so excited to have another event in Sebastopol because we don’t have a lot of stuff happening,” Kai said. “I think everybody was really motivated to be there. Everybody stayed the whole time.”

For both Kai and Dorado, the July 5 event is far from the last one they plan to hold. Dorado said that they’re working with the city of Sebastopol on a permitted Black Lives Matter art project, and said that personally, she’s planning on speaking with Senator Mike McGuire about the possibility of working to introduce criminal justice bills.

She said that one of the things that co-organizing this event with Kai taught her was the power of unity.

“The more feminist side of it is we’re two (teenage) girls making these things happen,” she said. Kai is 17 years old, and Dorado is 15. “When unity is applied — how significant it is.” 

“I don’t think this will ever be something that I’m not interested in,” Dorado said. “Racism doesn’t end when the hashtag stops being posted.”

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