Diversity was center stage yesterday with the release of another powerful video statement from Wilton residents in support of solidarity and community. Resident Artie Rokkam produced the 90-second video as a message from members of Wilton’s Indian community and posted it on Facebook to add more voices to the #WiltonStrong and “We Are Wilton” movement.
“I conceptualized and organized it after the Middlebrook incidents. The video was intended as a vehicle for the entire Indian community to communicate our shared values of love, peace, kindness and inclusion,” says Rokkam, a young mom of three who moved here with her family two year ago.
The video shows many children involved in a variety of activities around town echoing the phrases that many residents have adopted in the days following three separate anti-Semitic incidents at Middlebrook. They’re joined by grown-ups who also add their voices to the message.
Rokkam says her belief was that adding their voices was exactly the point–that as members of the community that they care about very much, they needed to speak up.
“We have a significant amount of Indians living in Wilton and we felt like if we don’t speak up for our neighbors who were targeted and/or are marginalized in other ways, what’s the point? The Dr. King quote in the video is exactly the sentiment. We aren’t here just for the schools or for the Hindu Temple, we are in it for it all–good, bad, ugly. Like the video says, we are Wilton!” she writes in a message to GMW.
The Martin Luther King, Jr., quote that Rokkam referred to definitely captures the group’s feeling: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” In the video, Rokkam matched King’s quote with one from Mahatma Gandhi: “Where there is love, there is life.”
Once she got the idea she didn’t waste time. She quickly worked via social media groups to ask members of the community–from school connections, the Temple, neighbors–to come to Merwin Meadows on one evening. She scheduled a small, second shoot on another day for kids who couldn’t make the first one, making sure as many people who wanted to be part of it could be. “It’s all about inclusion, right?” she adds.
Clearly people were excited to participate.
“We had about a hundred folks show up on the day of the shoot, and it wasn’t with much planning, maybe a week’s notice at best,” Rokkam says. She shot the video on her husband’s cell phone, and edited it quickly, teaching herself the editing software in just days to get it done.
In one of her Facebook posts sharing her video, Rokkam wrote, “Wishing this Holiday Season brings forth Joy & Peace in all our hearts and lives.” To that end, the video shows not only several clips of children declaring, “We are Wilton Hoops!” “We are Wilton Baseball” and more with other sports, but in one spectacular section, a large group of people declare, “We are Hindu, we are Muslim, we are Christian, we are Sikh, we are Jewish.”
It’s a sweet reminder of how strong Wilton can be when it is united.