PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
People form a circle and put their arms around each other as Rabbi Margie Klein Rankin sings a song during a meeting for the Essex County Community Organization, which focused on healing after the election.
By LEAH DEARBORN
LYNN — A diverse crowd turned out to begin the process of post-election healing at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday night.
What was originally planned as a strategy meeting for the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) primarily became a forum for people to gather and discuss their thoughts about a presidential election that surprised many voters.
“We want to create space for our hearts to feel, for our heads to think through and for our hands and our feet to get ready to work,” said Alexandra Pineros Shields, director of ECCO. “We are relatives — those in the red states and those in the blue states.”
After a brief prayer, attendees broke into small groups to talk about the impact of the election and to connect with other members of the community.
“Where I am most profoundly hearing pain is from immigrants,” said Rev. Jane Gould of St. Stephen’s, who also cited the LGBTQ community and women as groups who have expressed distress over the election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency.
“If you happen to be a minority, every single day you have to fight,” said Lynn resident Ahmadou Balde. “As a Muslim guy, it’s inconceivable. Knowing that I’m working every day with people who feel this way makes me very uncomfortable.”
“Women are equal people, they’re equal beings,” said Rev. Andre Bennett of Zion Baptist Church, who has five sisters. “They’re capable of doing anything that I am.”
Others in the room commented that the results of the election were complex, and that even those with differing opinions still deserved to have their voices heard.
Reactions ranged substantially, but the overall message of the night was a call for respect and unity across the country as well as close to home.
Sue Burgess came out for the evening from Swampscott and said that she had been seeking different perspectives on recent political events.
“What really bothered me the most was the lack of respect,” said Burgess about the Trump campaign. “I hope we can have more respect.”
Others joined the meeting because they simply wanted some companionship after a turbulent past few days.
“I just needed to surround myself with people of faith,” said Clyde Elledge of Marblehead.