Student organizations hold vigil for victims of police brutality

Candles, flowers, and photos of victims of police brutality dotted the colorful steps of the Turchin Center For the Visual Arts as students and faculty gathered to honor the Black lives lost, and close out Black History Month on Tuesday afternoon.

Student organizations Queen In You, the Pi Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Black Male Excellence Initiative came together to hold the vigil. 

The vigil was both a celebration of life and an intimate and vulnerable space for students and faculty to come together and reflect, mourn and express themselves among their peers and community, said Clarinda Choice, assistant director of Intercultural Student Affairs. Speakers included students within the organizations, as well as faculty from App State’s Intercultural Student Affairs, but the mic was open to any and all students wanting to share their experiences.

“Community is the vessel necessary to move towards wellness,” said Choice as they opened the event with a brief speech on the importance of community and its power to help “Black folks” move from survival and coping to true healing. 

After a brief intermission, a few students took the stage to share candid speeches in front of the memorial. David Itson, freshman accounting major, represented the Black Male Excellence Initiative, a Residential Living Community inaugurated during the 2021 school year to bring incoming Black male scholars a sense of community and academic support on campus. 

“I encourage y’all to have more conversations,” Itson said at the end of his speech as he shared his experience with activism through community policing initiatives. 

 “Have that conversation with fear and how we can fix that,” Itson said. “How can we bring that trust back in our community?” Lamont Sellers, Intercultural Student Affairs director closed out the ceremony with his speech.

“It’s times like these that we can come together and recognize the collective strength that we do have,” Lamont said.“I’m encouraged by the fact that we are a resilient and strong people.” 

After his speech, the memorial was opened for those present to pay their respects, mourn and reflect. Students gathered around the steps observing the photos, offering candles and hugging each other in moments of silence and heavy emotions. 

“It was very intimate, and fortunately a lot of us know each other, so like as a Black community we are able to be a shoulder to cry on for each other,” said Victoria Virella, senior exercise science major, and secretary for Queen In You, an on-campus organization dedicated to the advancement of women, particularly women of color, according to their Engage page.