At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22, several Lawrence students convened on Boldt Way outside Warch Campus Center and formed a circle for a Vigil for Victims of Violence in the United States.
Lighting and holding candles, the number of students grew to about 35 over the next ten minutes, while Brienne Colston, senior and president of All is One! Empowering Young Women of Color, the group who organized the event, delivered a speech commemorating the lives of people of color killed violently in the United States, and those affected by their deaths.
“It is now more than necessary to join in solidarity against the forces that made black lives disposable,” declared Colston, opening the vigil which would last for another 20 minutes in 20 degree temperatures on a windy January evening.
Several students’ candles had to be re-lit after blowing out in the wind, and others were sheltering their candles’ flames with their hands.
The circle remained tight as Colston concluded her introduction and a list of names of victims of violence from around the country was read aloud, comprising the next ten minutes of the vigil. It was followed by silence. At around 7:20, the circle broke apart and students blew out their candles, embraced one another before going their separate ways.
Cheyenne Van Dyke, junior and Vice President of AIO, described the impact of holding the event on campus. “[The vigil] was to commemorate those people who have been victims of violence. The impact was showing that black lives matter…it was a moment to value and to empower, to commemorate and uplift those lives.”
AIO originally planned the vigil for fall term 2014, but had to postpone when it rained on the day the event was supposed to take place. However, Colston considered the reschedule to be well-timed: “Coming off of the die-in a week before, the vigil gave us a chance to strengthen our message and promote understanding on campus,” she explained.
The die-in, which was organized by the Black Student Union and took place on Tuesday, Jan. 20, involved around 50 students marching into Warch and lying on the ground motionless for over four minutes before marching out again.
Although the die-in and Thursday’s vigil were organized separately, Colston expressed concern over the possibility of the vigil receiving negative reactions similar to those inspired by the die-in. “I was a little frightened because of all the [social media] comments after the die-in, but the reactions to the vigil were positive” she stated, going on to describe the responses of bystanders. “Many people coming out of Warch were at first standing [and watching], then joining our circle.”
Colston concluded by proclaiming her pride at seeing events like this and the recent vigil for victims of violence in Pakistan happening on her campus. “I’m really glad to see we are using Lawrence as a space for healing.”