CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The moms who organized Sunday’s post-election LoveWinsCLT rally seemed a bit stunned as they looked out over more than 300 people.
“I stand here today as testament that any voice can actually do something,” said Erika Lopez, who described a handful of preschool mothers creating the event in a little over a week.
While the organizers are Hillary Clinton supporters who did much of their outreach through the Pantsuit Nation social media group, the event was studiously nonpartisan and mostly apolitical. Instead, speaker after speaker urged the group to reach across political, racial, religious and other barriers and overcome the fear and anger that accompanied the presidential campaign and its aftermath
“This is our moment of greatness. What we do matters. If you want to see more love, go and be and share love, for yourself and others,” said Brandy Winn of Playing For Others, an arts and service group for teens. Winn told the group that her cerebral palsy diagnosis does not define her.
“You want to know what makes America great? This crowd makes America great,” said Naqash Choudhery of the Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte.
President-elect Donald Trump’s name was never mentioned, even though it was the rhetoric of his campaign that inspired the gathering. Instead, children played in bounce-houses, nonprofits signed up volunteers and people swarmed tables spread with food. “What do moms do when they get together?” Lopez asked. “Feed you.”
The most political remarks came from Edwin Peacock III, a former Republican Charlotte City Council member and mayoral candidate. He said three things created the momentum behind the gathering: The presidential election, September’s riots in Charlotte and the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which created a furor over LGBT rights.
“While those three issues hang over us, they will not define us,” Peacock said.
“What we need now more than ever are the bridge-builders,” said Jonathan Winn of Breathe Refuge. “I want to challenge you to be the bridge-builders.”
State Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat, got the loudest applause as he called for people to unite around “basic human decency that cuts through politics.” He said the local unity movement can turn into a powerful political force: “You are going to see a national response to this moment unlike any you have ever seen in your life.”
— Ann Doss Helms (@anndosshelms) November 20, 2016
Speakers urged everyone to get involved with groups that promote diversity and support people who have been marginalized.
“We must keep opportunity alive as a beacon of hope,” said Rev. Ricky Woods of First Baptist Church West.
— Elyse Dashew (@elysedashew) November 20, 2016
The gathering took place in a parking lot outside ourBridge for Kids, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group on Central Avenue that supports immigrant students.
When the program ended, Trump supporter Fritz “Lex” Cooper thanked Lopez for creating the event.
“I loved it. It was amazing,” said Cooper, who has a daughter in Playing For Others. He said he hopes people will judge him by his own actions and his example of tolerance, not his presidential vote.
So what’s next for the women who donned purple shirts and inspired so much energy?
“We haven’t thought that far,” Lopez said. “We’re going to clean up this parking lot.”
Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms