For Members Only holds vigil to honor slain Michigan teen


Ebony Calloway/The Daily Northwestern

For Members Only leads a candlelight vigil for Renisha McBride Wednesday night at The Rock. The Michigan teen was shot Nov. 2 in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

Lights illuminated The Rock on Wednesday night as about 30 Northwestern students clutching candles gathered to honor the death of — and seek justice for — a woman not far from their own age.

Medill junior April McFadden opened the event, speaking passionately about racism in America.

“Racism exists in systems of oppression that we don’t even realize are happening every day,” McFadden said.

The gathering, hosted by For Members Only, was a vigil in remembrance of Renisha McBride. McBride, a 19-year-old black woman from Dearborn Heights, Mich., was shot and killed Nov. 2 after going to a stranger’s house seeking help following a car accident. The shooter, a 54-year-old man whose name has not yet been released, told his attorney he believed someone was trying to break into his home, according to reports. As of Wednesday night, no charges had been filed in the case.

The story has received national attention, with many bringing up the question of racial profiling in light of the case of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was killed in February 2012 by a neighborhood watchman in his Florida gated community. Both have sparked criticism of state stand-your-ground laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self-defense without making an attempt to avoid confrontation.

The vigil began with McFadden, FMO’s coordinator, giving a short introduction, then opening the floor for others to speak. One speaker was Medill sophomore Simedar Jackson, FMO’s historian. Jackson talked about the importance of education when it comes to talking about race.

“People need to be educated,” she said. “Then, those same people who understand the complexities and nuances of race and sexuality need to be the people making legislation.”

FMO spokesman Matthew Wright said he recognized that race is not always the easiest thing to talk about. He stressed, however, that getting over that initial discomfort is the only way for change to happen.

“I think that people like being comfortable, and when they’re pushed to be uncomfortable, they’re quick to be defensive,” the Medill sophomore said.

McFadden agreed that the discomfort with having a discussion about race prevents progress. She talked about the notion of living in a post-racial society, saying that although “racism is no longer blatant,” it is still present.

“This is a culture where people see a person of color and view them as a threat,” she said. “This is something that is societally constructed and it’s a learned behavior.”

McFadden also touched upon the issue of sexuality present in the shooting of McBride. She discussed the value society places on black women and the unique identity and experiences that come with being both a woman and a black person.

The case caught the attention of national figures like Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who expressed hope for justice for the McBride family. Conyers issued a statement saying he has “long opposed” the stand-your-ground laws of Michigan and other states.

“What happened to her is tragic,” McFadden said. “The person that shot her needs to be prosecuted and the fact that he hasn’t been is a crime in itself.”

At the beginning of the event, McFadden led a moment of silence for Alexis Lasker and Caleb Dayton. Lasker, a former Communication student, took her own life Saturday, and Dayton, a former School of Continuing Studies student, jumped to his death Tuesday.

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Twitter: @oliviaexstrum