Candlelight vigil held to mourn black lives lost over past 6 months


(Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer) Northwestern Community Ensemble performs for a candlelight vigil held to honor lives lost due to violence directed toward the black community. The event was part of a two-week series of programming around Black Lives Matter.

Catherine Kim, Reporter

Students, faculty and staff gathered at Alice Millar Chapel on Sunday for a candlelight vigil to honor black lives lost to police brutality and prejudice-driven violence committed in the past six months.

The Theta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at Northwestern held the candlelight vigil to “unify our community” and “shed light on those who fell victim to the everyday injustices faced by the black community,” according to the event’s program. The vigil was part of a two-week series of programming centered around dialogue on Black Lives Matter.

Between a series of poetry readings and performances from music groups, organizers read more than 100 names of black lives lost to violence, concluding with a candle-lighting ceremony. Among those honored were Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — who were stopped and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota — prompting protests across the United States.

Communication junior Aisha Hauser, who is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, told The Daily the organization not only wanted to talk about the history of racial inequality and the current state of the Black Lives Matter movement, but also hoped to honor those who had been killed.

“The fact that we have hundreds of names in just six months is a problem that’s not overdrawn,” she said. “It’s not grown out of proportion. I hope people leave understanding the gravity of the issue we’re standing in front of and want to do something about it.”

Poems read at the vigil — including “These Yet to be United States” by Maya Angelou and “I, Too” by Langston Hughes — were specifically selected to both honor those who have died while also establishing a sense of perseverance, Hauser said.

Organizers chose poets from various eras to highlight the long history of violence against black lives, she added.

“It’s something that’s been happening for generations, so we wanted to make sure that the poems reflected that,” Hauser said. “The authors of the poems have been around for many generations.”

The event also featured performances from a cappella group Soul4Real and Northwestern Community Ensemble, a gospel choir. Communication junior Maurice Hatch, who participated in both groups, said the songs performed, such as “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “Patience,” were picked to reflect the message of the vigil.

“‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around’ is kind of a staple song of the civil rights movement,” he said. “(It’s) about being courageous and the efforts, especially in this case, against violence.”

Hatch added that the vigil gave the community an opportunity to come together and mourn lives lost to anti-black brutality in 2016 and show a sense of togetherness while moving forward into the next year.

Josh McKenzie, associate director for New Student and Family Programs and director of First-Year Experience, attended the vigil and said it is crucial to set aside time to reflect on the issues in our country.

Mayra Garces, assistant director of NSFP, added that the vigil was a reminder of her personal societal role.

“This is just another example that I have a responsibility to make sure that I’m with my community,” she said. “I’m with my Northwestern community, with the black community, the larger humanity in general.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Mayra Garces’ name. The Daily regrets the error. 

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