Calvin supports Mizzou students with candlelight vigil

Photo+Credit+Anna+Delph

Photo Credit Anna Delph

Calvin students, faculty, staff, families and others within the Grand Rapids community gathered on Commons Lawn Wednesday night to stand in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. Brianna Marshall, a recent geography graduate who now works at the Center for Social Research, organized the event with help from Calvin staff and administration.

This fall, racial tensions have been intensifying at the University of Missouri. On his way to class, Peyton Head, the senior president of the Missouri Students Association, was addressed with racial slurs. On Oct. 5, members of the Legion of Black Collegians were called the N-word while preparing the school for homecoming. These initial taunts have since elevated to a more dramatic state, to the point that one student began posting death threats over the social media outlet Yik Yak on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

“This morning I saw my twitter feed exploding with news about what was going on at Mizzou. I felt like I had to do something,” said Marshall. “So I reached out to people on campus … and got in touch with Aaron Winkle, the associate chaplain.”

In a matter of a couple hours, Marshall had created a Facebook event for a candlelight vigil to be held on Commons Lawn. She reached out to others who then spread the word in their own spheres. Chaplain Mary Hulst spread the news in Wednesday’s chapel and posted about the vigil online. Students put posters up across campus, We Are Calvin Too helped advertise, and student senate assisted in organizing the event.

“There was so much support from the administration. It meant so much to me that everyone rallied behind it,” said Marshall. “They worked very seriously to make it happen, and they helped make it a reality in about two hours.”

Even with so much support from administration, Marshall was still unsure of how many people would be aware of the event and be able to attend. “About 30 people said they were going on Facebook, so I was expecting maybe 20 or so to show up,” said Marshall. In reality, over 100 people gathered on the lawn despite the cold wind.

The vigil offered a space to reflect, sing, share testimonies, pray, and mourn the situation as a community. Many people from various backgrounds attended and shared with the group.

“I am so tired. I am exhausted,” said Randy Foreman, a junior RA on ground floor Timmer. “This is not just a social justice issue, this is my life, and so many of my brothers’ and sisters’ lives.”

“We have a responsibility to do something,” said Tonisha Begay, a recent grad now working with the Service Learning Center. “This movement is alive and you are part of it. This does not end tonight. Justice is a part of our calling every day.”

Ethan DeVries, the student body president, also helped organize the event and attended to show his support.

“This here is a beautiful image of God,” said DeVries. “When we see hate, we need courage to stand up and shine our light.”

After the event, Marshall reflected on the comfort of seeing so many people come together. “Having that kind of community support really helps you feel like you can go on. My little brother is a sophomore here at Calvin … and this kind of support makes me feel like it will be OK for him.”