Wellesley Holds Vigil Against Racism For Family Attacked On Facebook

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Tendai Musikavanhu speaks at a gathering in Wellesley to address racism targeted at his son, a Wellesley high school student. (Fred Thys/WBUR)
Tendai Musikavanhu speaks at a gathering in Wellesley to address racism targeted at his son, a Wellesley high school student. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

A Wellesley high school student whose family was attacked on Facebook last month by three Wellesley teenagers and four others from neighboring towns said he trusts Wellesley to believe in equality.

Nearly 300 people attended a gathering on a lawn near the town hall Sunday evening to listen to the student and his father.

Tendai Musikavanhu and his family emigrated from South Africa and made their home in Wellesley seven years ago.

"Many of you have heard the racial slurs, degrading invective and insults our family faced when these seven young boys spewed rants of prejudice, calling me and my family the N-word, questioning whether we were even human, wanting us to go back to Africa and stating that our family were taking American jobs, and that I would be lynched or genocided," Musikavanhu told the crowd.

As a private equity investor, Musikavanhu said he creates jobs in the United States.

"This event, occurring in one of the country's most affluent, sophisticated towns, is proof that no one is immune to racism, whether as a victim or a perpetrator," Musikavanhu said.

Musikavanhu's 15-year-old son, whom, at the request of his father, WBUR is not naming, also spoke to the crowd.

"It's truly an honor to be able to address my town, because it means that I have a chance to shed some light in this very dark situation, and it means that I can aid this town through this period of reflection," the younger Musikavanhu said. "When someone's family is put to question and they are attacked racially or in any form, it is very difficult to be able to gather your thoughts and emotions, but thankfully, time and God have allowed me to stand before you today."

The younger Musikavanhu is back in school on Wednesday, where a school-wide discussion of what happened to him is planned. His father looked close to tears as he talked about he how felt as he received a standing ovation from the townspeople.

"No one likes to see their family attacked," the father said.

Asked whether the current political climate in this country encouraged those teenagers to say what they did on Facebook, the father said:

"Whether Trump or whether anybody else, these issues are bubbling beneath the surface, and all that's happening is some people are the pimple through which this puss comes out. The question then is: How do we address the issues, the underlying issues in our country?"

Among the vigil's attendees was Mary Scanlon, whose granddaughter is a student at the high school.

"I was surprised by it, because I didn't think Wellesley was like that, and I want to do my part to make Wellesley a better place," Scanlon said.

Standing next to Scanlon was the father of a student at the high school, Tim Raeke.

"I'm definitely surprised that people would have done what they did, but I think deep down, we know that racism exists, and it's our job to combat it, and that's why I came out," Musikavanhu said.

After the speeches, people lingered for awhile talking to one another. The town is planning another event to talk about inclusion next month.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this piece misattributed a quotation by Scanlon to the older Musikavanhu.

This article was originally published on August 29, 2016.

This segment aired on August 29, 2016.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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