The gentle flickering of candles lit the faces of roughly 40 students and faculty members who attended the Black Student Association’s (BSA) candlelight vigil on Thursday, Sept. 29. Held in Seven Palms to remember and honor the victims of recent police shootings and related violence, the event provided attendees with a safe place to express their emotions, as well as learn about and discuss each others’ perspectives.
“I think that one of the biggest root causes of our problems in society is communication,” said Dana King, a senior screenwriting major and BSA’s vice president. “We don’t know how to communicate; we don’t know how to accept communication. We can’t tell when somebody’s communicating, nonetheless what they’re communicating. Platforms like this where we can communicate and hear communication and understand communication are just pivotal.”
King presented statistics regarding violence between police and the communities they serve, and invited audience members to participate in analyzing and interpreting the data.
“It’s not enough to be angry anymore,” King said. “You have to be smart.”
Along with King’s speech and a poem performed by senior graphic design major and creative director for BSA Taylor Allen, attendees were encouraged to speak and pray about whatever was on their hearts.
While the majority of attendees opted to remain in silent meditation, a few took the stage and prayed openly. Among these was Associate Campus Pastor for Discipleship Ministries Coba Canales, who prayed for the APU community and peace for the families of the victims.
“I’m really glad that it became a safe space for everybody to cry and to release any feelings that they had as far as traumas or disappointment and fear,” senior social work major and BSA President Jamilah Relf said. “I hope that this will spark conversation and lead people to pray for the communities that are hurting on our campus.”
Attendees observed moments of silence and broke off into groups to pray with and support one another.
“I think the biggest thing for the APU community to realize is that sometimes these events can seem far off, they can seem all the way in the South, but I think what the APU community should know is that there are students here on our campus that are impacted by this and that it’s not so far as they think; it’s actually right here at home,” Allen said. “For me personally, I don’t know anybody that lives in those states, [and] I wasn’t related to any of those people. However, when you look at that TV screen, you see your brother, you see your dad. You see your family members, and I think that’s a really frightening thought to have.”
Though she felt the vigil went well, Allen said she would like to see these kinds of discussions happen through other avenues on campus.
“I would like to hear it talked about in more classrooms,” Allen said. “I understand that we have topics, we have subjects, we have syllabi that we need to abide by, but I don’t think it would hurt to talk about it for five to 10 minutes in the classroom. I know there are professors that do that right now, and that’s so appreciated.”
King also emphasized the importance of discussion and continuing to search for and pursue knowledge about issues in today’s society.
“I think that we think of the phrase ‘educate yourself,’ and we think that it’s about reading a book. We think that it’s about researching and Googling stuff online and it’s not,” King said. “It’s about listening. It’s about being willing to talk to other people, being willing to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It’s not enough to have a strong passion toward something. You have to have a strong passion, and a route and a means to understand and better elaborate on that passion.”
To bring the vigil to a close, junior psychology major Aubre Ferrell prayed one final prayer for the victims and the APU community, and audience members placed their candles side-by-side on the stage.