Last Tuesday, October 21st, 2014, the Black Student Association held a prayer vigil for Michael Brown and other victims of police brutality and violence. The ceremony began in Gano Chapel where several students gave presentations about topics such as white privilege and police brutality against young people.
“I feel like a lot of times people make the assumption that this [police brutality] is a “black thing.” I think that in our program, during the prayer vigil, we proved that this is not a “black thing.” And we purposely and strategically looked at the case of Bryce Masters, who was a Caucasian 17 year old boy who experienced some police brutality as well as Michael Brown, and this happened near us in Independence, Missouri. This is something that is happening all over the United States,” Cari Hill, junior and president of BSA, said.
As students walked into Gano at the start of the vigil, they were given the option of writing down the name of a person they knew who had been a victim of violence.
“We have students who go to William Jewell College who were born and raised in St. Louis, so they have a personal connection with Michael Brown’s shooting. We have African American students on this campus, including myself, who, when they’re off campus, feel they’re unsafe to walk down the street. They feel unsafe for their family members, and although some Jewell students do not have to feel that, we live that truth on a regular basis. We had people of the Jewell community who attended the event tonight, we personally knew Bryce Masters. You never know who’s around you, you never know what affects each person at Jewell, and you cannot generalize the campus,” Jacquinta Hammons, junior and vice president of BSA, said.
While the prayer vigil was planned to specifically highlight recent reports of police brutality, it did serve some historical significance as well. Last week’s prayer vigil was a first for Jewell’s campus.
“This vigil was important to do because a prayer vigil has never happened on William Jewell’s campus. This was a milestone. This was making history. It opened a door for more events that can start difficult conversations of issues that not only plague the black community, but the community as a whole. It starts breaking down the barrier of division with race. It opens up people’s minds on both ends of how perspectives and experiences differ,” Hammons said.
After the presentations in Gano Chapel, students were led to Trotter Art’s Plaza where they formed a circle and held candles around an outlined figure that symbolized victims of police brutality and violence.
“The prayer vigil, as a whole, went so much better than I could ever expect. Dr. Sallee was able to come to the event, and afterwards he went around to each of the students who helped out and gave us this real hug and told us to ‘keep pushing and keep moving on,’ and I think this exemplifies the support system we have at William Jewell. We’re a huge family, and even though we’re a close community, there are a lot of issues that aren’t as apparent to other people, such as white privilege and how it feels to be a black student in a predominantly white classroom. For Dr. Sallee to come and hug each and every one of us and tell us what we’re doing is right is something was a success,” Hill said.