The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Candlelight vigil focuses on danger of racial profiling

Alpha Phi Alpha (APA) and the Black Student Alliance for Sexual Equality (BASE) hosted an open forum to discuss justice in light of the recent killing of the unarmed 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin.

Kadeem Fyffe, co-president of BASE, was inspired to hold the event after learning about Martin's death through Facebook, he said.

"The worst thing you can do to somebody is kill them," Fyffe said. "Somebody had the worst thing happen to them. I thought it needed to be discussed in real life."

The question that started the discussion was why George Zimmerman thought he could kill Martin without legal consequences.

"Zimmerman created the situation," said Dwayne Foster, senior and President of APA. "I believe he knew how much he could get away with."

Other students were also suspicious of Zimmerman's actions following Martin's death.

"The connections his family has makes me think that some networking was done on his behalf," Longwood graduate and APA member Gregory Dear said.

Students also discussed the role that race played in the killing.

"I think that America does not value the black life," sophomore Jhewel Fernandez said.

Senior Ashley Andem also thought race had a clear role to play in the whole situation. "Each of us has a death sentence written on our skin," she said. "We must fight back."

The conclusion most students reached was that Martin's death was a clear result of racial profiling. Students discussed ways racial profiling had impacted their own lives.

Some jokingly shared their examples. "I never wear hats unless it's raining," Fyffe said.

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Many students felt they could directly relate to Martin. Antoine Waul, Vice President of APA, reminded everybody who attended that any one of them could have easily been in his place.

The case hit especially close to home for some students.

"In my community we also have a neighborhood watch," freshman Ariel Wilson said. "When I see Trayvon Martin, I see my brother. When I was younger, my mother told me to follow the law, and I would be okay. I don't see why if I am an upstanding citizen, the laws don't protect me in the same way."

Senior RayTwoine Fields from Jersey City, N.J., could also relate. "My god brother just died back home the other day," he said. "I know a plethora of Trayvon Martins. I am Trayvon Martin."

An evaluation of the case was also approached from a legal perspective. Opposition to the Stand Your Ground law was stated.

"This is not just a race problem, but also a legislation problem," Danielle Stokes, junior and President of Delta Sigma Theta, said.

Antrelle Tyson, a Richmond first-year law student, told students how they could make a legal difference. "You must put pressure on the General Assembly and be aware of laws being passed, especially here in Richmond," he said.

The need for action was not only recognized by students, but also by local citizens.

"You have to get people to implement what you want, to rule what you want ruled on," a local Richmond citizen said. "Start getting people voting."

Her husband, who has lived in Richmond since it was segregated, also addressed students.

"What you need to be talking about is what you are going to do from now on," he said. "You don't have to break the law. All you have to do is stand up for what is right. You are ready. Get yourselves together, stand up and do something."

Faculty and staff also showed their support. "I feel all kinds of emotions in this room: anger, sadness, disappointment," university psychology professor Jane Berry said. "I want to let you know that we have zero tolerance for this kind of crime."

University chaplain, Craig Kocher, said, "You have the support within the faculty and staff."

The discussion was followed by a candlelight vigil. Foster initiated a responsive cheer. He yelled, "We are!" and students echoed with "Trayvon!"

Those wearing sweatshirts put their hoods over their heads in memory of what Martin was wearing when he was killed. Students lighted their candles from each other's. With their candles piercing through the night, students walked around the Westhampton Lake.

"It is beautiful to see people stand up for justice and what is really right," Waul said.

Contact reporter Eunice Brumskine at eunice.brumskine@richmond.edu

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