I was in Charlottesville this past Saturday, promoting love, equality, opportunity, and inclusion.

I am still processing everything that I saw, heard, and felt (feel)—much of which I hope to never revisit. While I initially planned not to go due to intense fear, I decided that I must join my brothers and sisters in demonstrating a strong and united position that we would not stand for hatred.

I remember my anxiety during the drive down from DC to Charlottesville, and my prayers that the protests would remain peaceful. I remember my fear upon arrival as I waited in an open area for allies to come take us to the meeting site, wondering which “side” White passersby represented–my identity as a Black woman felt more vulnerable than ever during those minutes. I remember hearing White Supremacists’ chants echoing throughout the downtown area, as more people gathered for their rally throughout the course of the morning. I remember the crowds, the cries for help, the fights, the lock-downs, and the medics and supporters tending to injured participants. I remember the palpable taste of pepper spray that lingered in the air.

All of this was a result of White Supremacy. It has long existed throughout several facets of society, but reared its ugly head more blatantly this past weekend. I was appalled by how proudly people wore this hatred as badges of honor. They organized to intimidate, to inflict fear, and to hurt people. Saturday was a demonstration of the loathing, prejudice, and pain that is still all too prevalent; and it is a terrifying thing.

I don’t know if I will ever be the same after Saturday, and I don’t think that I should be. None of us should. Service Never Sleeps will always be committed to promoting equality, opportunity, and inclusion for everyone; and we will unapologetically stand up against anything that compromises or challenges that objective. Our goal of shared humanity should unite us to mobilize in love–which also means speaking up against hatred.

Saturday’s events will forever be seared into my brain and heart, but it includes beautiful examples of community and Allyship. I was encouraged by how so many individuals were willing to put their own bodies on the line, to stand up for shared humanity. Even my personal experience of being escorted down to Charlottesville by White allies—who stayed by my side the entire day—is testament to how strongly I believe that people WILL take a stand for good, even at the expense of their own safety. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured, and to the loved ones of Heather Heyer, the brave woman who died from the act of terror that ensued.

So much of this experience was surreal, yet ever so demonstrative of our reality. Saturday was another example of just how much work we must commit to doing. Not only am I hopeful and more committed than ever, but I am convinced that I am not alone. Love MUST win.

In shared humanity,

Whitney Parnell
Co-Founder & CEO

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