How Heather Heyer's Mom Is Remembering Her One Year After The Charlottesville Violence
A lot has changed for Susan Bro in the year since her daughter, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed by a driver who plowed his car into counter-protesters at a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As cities around the country continue to grapple with additional white nationalist protests in the year since Heyer's death, Bro has become an unexpected activist for equality. But how will Heyer's mom mark the anniversary of her death?
While Heyer's tragic death captured the nation's attention in 2017, Bro is keeping her plans for the one-year anniversary relatively simple. "I'm going to mark the day by laying flowers at her memorial, talking to the press, and giving a speech at an NAACP meeting," Bro recently wrote in an article for Cosmopolitan.
According to the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Bro is one of nine confirmed speakers and guests expected to attend the civil rights organization's Time for Reflections and Healing event on Aug. 12.
Neither the Heather Heyer Foundation nor the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP immediately returned Bustle's request for comment.
Bro doesn't plan to just pay tribute to her daughter's memory and legacy on the anniversary of her death. Rather, as she has throughout the last year, Bro plans to continue her daughter's fight for equality and justice. "I'm going to continue to fight for Heather's legacy and once again remind everyone of the importance of educating the next generation of activists, advocates, and allies," she wrote in Cosmopolitan.
As part of her work, Bro launched the Heather Heyer Foundation last year to assist those who, like her daughter, are passionate about evoking positive social change. In an effort to encourage the civic engagement Heyer was known for, the foundation awards scholarships to individuals looking to use their skills and education to "promote peaceful social change for unity."
"I turned my attention to carrying forth her message," Bro told USA Today earlier this week. "You don't get to silence my kid and get away with it. I'm going to speak even louder."
But, according to Bro, there's still a significant amount of work left to do. "The anniversary of Heather's death doesn't really mean much of anything except that it's been a year," Bro wrote for Cosmopolitan. "And the truth is, very little actual change has taken place in that time period." While the street where Heyer was killed has been renamed in her honor, Bro has claimed that Charlottesville's city leadership has struggled to make progress when it comes to issues like affordable housing.
"As for the country as a whole, that's probably going to take another set of elections before anything starts to change," Bro wrote. Indeed, last year's deadly rally in Charlottesville — and President Donald Trump's response — appear not to have discouraged white nationalists but to have emboldened them.
Jason Kessler, one of the organizers behind the rally in Charlottesville, plans to hold a Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, the one-year anniversary of last year's deadly event. In his National Mall Special Event permit, the Washington Post reported Kessler described his event as a "white civil rights" rally.
Although Bro knows firsthand the sacrifices speaking out can bring, she has said that it's important not to ignore white nationalists like those behind the Unite the Right rallies. "If we ignore them, they think they have won because they have had the... playing field all to themselves," she recently told ABC News' Start Here podcast. "If we give them violence, they believe they have won because they have pushed your buttons and maybe taken out a few."
Despite the hard work ahead, Bro is determined to continue her daughter's activism. "I will never stop calling out bigotry and injustice," she wrote for Cosmopolitan.