Fighting back tears, the great-granddaughter of a famous poet in India says ‘we’ve all got to laugh so we’re ok’
Waukesha parade attack victim, 11, makes her family laugh despite injuries: ‘Just glue me back together’
Nine days after 14-year-old Harsha Maddula was killed in a racist attack on an Indian family in Waukesha, Wisconsin, young girls in the US city are coming together for a march in his memory.
Waukesha officials have called for a week-long period of mourning. While Harsha’s death follows a string of attacks on Indian Americans in the US, none of those alleged to be motivated by xenophobia have occurred in the town of 85,000 people about 60 miles north of Milwaukee.
A parade through the city’s downtown will kick off a day of commemorations, including a memorial at the Waukesha Public Library, a gathering at the Indian embassy and a gathering at the Quatrro Centre on the Square.
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Nine-year-old Kaylah Williams, who rode in the parade last year when she was two, said the week of mourning is sad.
“I just think that it’s a really sad day,” Williams told the Guardian. “I feel bad for the Waukesha community. We’ve all got to laugh so we’re ok.”
Kaylah said she and her friends make up only a tiny portion of the Waukesha population but that on Wednesday, they would have a community event.
“We’re just going to be there just to help make the day go well,” Williams said.
The Waukesha metropolitan area has a large Indian population. According to the South Asian Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, there are approximately 2,500 Indian households in the area and around 3,500 Indian people in general.
Until last year, the Fonte family from India had lived in the area since the 1990s. They were part of an immigrant wave that decimated the area’s middle class – it was virtually empty when Fonte arrived in 1993.
Two of Fonte’s three daughters were not in Wisconsin when the shooting happened, having moved away over the years. One said she was left confused and didn’t understand the situation herself.
“She said it was really hard for my family,” Fonte told the Guardian. “Some people came on our porch and said they were sorry.”
The mayor of Waukesha, Shawn Reilly, said Maddula was a loved member of the Waukesha community.
“Harsha Maddula was a beloved member of our community. We mourn his passing and are grieving his loss deeply,” Reilly said in a statement. “The citizens of Waukesha are a diverse community and we are united in our grief at the loss of Harsha.”
He went on to condemn the attack and focus on community unity: “We will not be intimidated. The strength of our community is evidenced by the love and support we are showing one another.”