More than 100 students and community members gathered for a vigil on the University Green Friday night to honor Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women who were killed by police.
The vigil, which was hosted by the women’s basketball team and members of the Black Caucus, came after a Kentucky grand jury did not issue any indictments directly related to Taylor’s death at the hands of Louisville police last month. Instead, the grand jury opted to charge only one officer with “wanton endangerment” for shooting into the home of one of Taylor’s neighbors, sparking nationwide protests and outrage.
The vigil included discussion, prayer, speeches and performances in honor of Taylor and other Black victims of police brutality.
Mass protests against police brutality erupted nationwide this past summer following the deaths of Black Americans like Taylor at the hands of police. Since her death, Taylor’s name has become a rallying cry at protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
The Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett began the vigil with a speech, followed by a moment of silence and prayer.
“Ever since varsity athletics shut down in March, we have seen varsity athletes beginning to make rumbles and what you see tonight is a part of that national rumble,” Pritchett said. “I did not want the historical sense of the evening to escape any of us.”
Following the prayer, Black Student Union President Thanele Bien-Aime led an open-mic discussion on Breonna Taylor, racism and police brutality.
Cameron Boss was one of the students who spoke of Taylor’s murder during the discussion.
“There’s no need for this type of situation to ever occur,” Boss said. “I won’t let it be politicized. This is a life.”
Vice President of Student Services Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson also spoke, emphasizing the University administration’s support of the event.
“As we hear you talking tonight, this speaks to all the work that [the administration] needs to do to make not only Seton Hall a better place but a better place beyond those gates,” Cooper-Gibson said.
Kiara Webster, a sophomore physics major, attended the vigil because she believed it was “important that the community come together in solidarity and support of each other. And this was the perfect opportunity.”
Desiree Elmore, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team, led the second half of the event which included a series of musical performances and spoken word poems.
Rapper Xani performed her song “Salutations” to open the second half of the vigil. She was then accompanied by Interstate Runnaz in a performance of “Hell in Amerikkka,” a song that tackles the topics of racism, social injustice, police brutality and false narratives about Black people.
“I want everyone to come together,” Elmore said. “A lot of people are going to disagree on topics, but as long as we stand together, that shows that we all want the same. We all want justice and to be able to live comfortably without having to constantly look over our shoulders.”
Other members in attendance from Seton Hall’s athletics department included Elmore’s teammates from the women’s basketball team, Director of Basketball Operations Shaaliyah Lyons and Director of Athletics and Recreation Bryan Felt.
Pritchett said it was a historic moment to see student-athletes as involved with an organization outside of their college’s athletics department as Elmore and her teammates. He added that with their focus primarily on their athletic and academic training, it can be difficult to get students of that stature on their campuses to put their name on an event such as this vigil.
Elmore said she had always wanted to host an event like this but had never fully committed herself to putting one together until now. She said despite the time constraints and commitments of being a student-athlete, time can be made for anything about which someone genuinely cares and passionately feels.
“There aren’t many student-athletes who take part in things like, and they certainly don’t have their names on it,” Elmore said. “But I’m hoping after the vigil, it’ll start getting people to come up with ideas on their own to keep the community together.”
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