Black Health and Wellness Collaborative honors Tyre Nichols in candlelight vigil


Olatunji Osho-Williams/The Daily Northwestern

The vigil featured vocal performances of “Free”and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by Northwestern’s premiere Black student a capella group Soul4Real.

Olatunji Osho-Williams, Digital Managing Editor

Content warning: This article discusses police brutality, racism and death. 

With song, prayer and performance, members of the Northwestern community gathered in a candlelit Alice Millar Chapel on Tuesday night to honor the life of Tyre Nichols.

“We did not know him, but we know him as a brother, a friend,” said assistant University Chaplain Rev. D’ana Downing, who gave the opening prayer at the vigil. 

The Black Health and Wellness Collaborative organized the vigil as a space for community healing following Tyre Nichols’ death after he was stopped and beaten by five Memphis, Tennessee police officers, who have since been charged with second-degree murder.

The vigil was a space for Weinberg freshman Caleb Snead to sit and unpack their emotions following the national tragedy. 

“We often have the problem of intellectualizing our experiences, rather than moving through them or allowing ourselves to actually experience them,” Snead said. “I didn’t quite realize I experienced a trauma until I got here.” 

BHWC was founded  Fall Quarter 2022 to provide communal support and resources for Black students. The organization has since hosted weekly meetings and workshops on boundaries, stress management, intention-setting and healing one’s inner child.

For Weinberg senior and BHWC co-Chair Jem Feuilladieu, he wanted the vigil to be a space for community dialogue and music.

“We just really wanted to make it a space that involved celebration through music and honoring through music,” said Feuilladieu. “Music is just a big part of Black culture in general, like music through healing, so that was definitely something we had in mind at the beginning of planning.”

The vigil featured vocal performances of “Free” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by NU’s premiere Black student a capella group Soul4Real, as well as a piano-accompanied duet of  “You Know My Name” by Bienen junior Olivia Pierce and SESP sophomore Michaiah Ligon, BHWC’s External Relations Advocate.

During a segment for reflection, NU community members spoke on how Nichols’ death affected them. 

For some Black students such as Ligon, it can feel difficult to find time to deal with the trauma of Tyre Nichols’ death. 

“I don’t even think I had the space to actually sit down and reflect on what happened,” Ligon said. “I also think that we as a community have become desensitized, it’s just another video — mine was on my for you page. I don’t think it’s as recognized as traumatic as it initially used to be.”

Former Daily staffer and Medill senior Onyeka Chigbogwu read an untitled spoken word poem he wrote in response to Nichols’ death. 

Chigbogwu said he often writes to process events in national news, and the media’s response to Nichols’ death moved him to share this poem.

“I noticed the way that people weren’t mourning Tyre Nichols as much as they were obsessed with the spectacle of another police killing,” Chigbogwu said. “Just considering those things, I wanted to write about the way that there hasn’t been a solution to these issues brought up.”

Downing said that, as the first Black woman and person to be assistant university chaplain, representation in her role is significant for holding space and providing a “ministry of presence” during times like this. They praised the students of BHWC for leading the effort to create healing spaces for their peers. 

In the vigil’s closing prayer, Downing called for a charge to action.

“Let us commit ourselves to being people who stand for truth, fairness and collective justice,” she said.

Correction: A former version of this story misattributed what Ligon said on reflection and desensitization of traumatic events. The Daily regrets the error. 

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