Vigil focus is to honor victims


Students listen to various speakers during the candlelit vigil honoring victims of police brutality outside Bailey/Howe Nov. 9. Speakers included senior Connor Luong, Director of the Center for Cultural Pluralism, Sherwood Smith, and multiple other ALANA student leaders

Students, faculty and community leaders gathered outside Bailey/Howe Library Nov.9 to participate in a candlelit vigil commemorating the victims of police brutality.

At 4:30 p.m. more than 100 people stood in support of these victims, particularly recognizing the recent murder of Michael Brown. The group then marched down Main Street and through Church Street holding candles and signs to demonstrate unity and raise awareness about the deadly consequences of racial profiling.

“We chose Nov.9 because it is the three month anniversary of Michael Brown’s death,” senior Sonia Nelson, president of the Black Student Union said.

The demonstrations in Ferguson following Brown’s murder inspired the ALANA Student Leader’s Coalition to get together, according to the UVM website. Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white man, fatally shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American man, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri.

“After the recent trend of police brutality against people of color, we collectively decided to do something about it because there’s often talk, but nothing is done,” Nelson said.

This event was a collaborative effort between the ALANA Student Center, the Black Student Union, Alianza Latina and the Asian-American Student Union, she said.

The event began with a thank you speech by senior Connor Luong, intern of Leadership and Development at the ALANA Student Center. Luong spoke about how being born Asian-American, he has had to force himself to be more visible in order to combat his intersecting identities.

“Being a person of color does not make me any less human,” he said.

Director for the Center for Cultural Pluralism Sherwood Smith then spoke about America’s history of violence and racism.

“Actions like tonight force people to become accountable for their actions… which is really important,” Smith said.

Before the march began, Alianza Latin publicist and fellow ALANA Student Leader, sophomore Jennifer Alexandra Gil, chanted the word “Tenemos derecho a tener derechos” which translates to “We have the right to have rights.”

“Michael Brown had the right to live, and it was taken from him,” Gil said.

One sign read the last words of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenage boy, who was also fatally shot by a police officer in February of 2012. His last words were, “Why are you following me?”

“Last words” were a common theme throughout the event.

Multiple ALANA Student Leaders stood before the crowd and read aloud the last words of multiple victims.

“For me, the whole experience was really powerful,” senior Jessica Fuller said

Throughout the march, participants chanted, “We are not invisible,” “hands up, don’t shoot” and “hey ho police brutality has got to go.” The energy was upheld by everyone throughout the march and some bystanders on Church Street even joined in with chanting and positive support.

ALANA Student Leaders said that they felt very touched and hopeful after the event.

“It’s events like these which really give me hope about the UVM community” Luong said.

Yet he urged greater accountability from administration to support their initiative to increase awareness.

“Our campus needs more educational programming and more administrative support for affinity groups like the BSU, the AASU and Alianza Latina,” Luong said.