Student-led prayer service mourned Breonna Taylor’s death


By Claire Murashima

Students wore all black to stand in solidarity with Breonna Taylor’s family during Monday’s outdoor chapel

Hundreds of students gathered on Commons Lawn Monday, Sept. 28, wearing all black, in solidarity and support for Breonna Taylor’s family. The event was a partnership between Learn, Educate, Act, Diversify (LEAD), the African Students Association and Campus Ministries.

Junior Jacob Williams and Sophomore Shelton Rodriguez led the outdoor chapel, starting with a few remarks from both, followed by a moment of silence. Rodriguez then led the crowd in a chant of “When we fight, we win,” and Pastor Matt Postma led the crowd in prayer. Prior to dismissing the crowd, Rodriguez led the crowd in another chant of “Say her name: Breonna Taylor.”

“I am tired of black boys and black girls auditioning for a funeral and getting the part,” said Rodriguez in his opening remarks.

LEAD, ASA and Campus Ministries planned the event the Thursday before when members of ASA reached out to Williams and Rodriguez.

ASA Executive Board Member Germaine Hounakey said, “The reason why we took this upon ourselves was the belief that as Africans, we are seen as Black people first before our nationalities.”

The president of ASA, Joano Quao, then contacted the director of the Center of Intercultural Student Development Jane Bruin, who pointed her to Campus Ministries. Chaplain Matt Postma had already been considering hosting a prayer march for Taylor. Posters were made that Saturday and spread over social media.

In his prayer, Postma prayed for the family of Taylor and asked that God would give the Calvin community a heart for justice. “There are those who wield prayer as an excuse to delay justice, or an effort to suppress the movement of the oppressed… Let us not be trapped by it. Expose it, Lord,” Postma said.

Bad weather nearly cancelled the event. There was a 90% chance of rain at 10 a.m., and because of Michigan’s COVID restrictions, no more than ten people are allowed inside without prior permission. Fortunately,  the rain held off until right after the service ended.

Both Rodriguez and Williams were surprised at the turnout and the makeup of the crowd. Williams said he expected 30 to 40 students to show up, all of them being students of color. However, the crowd contained at least 200 people. “It was the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen at Calvin,” Williams said.

“[The turnout] was definitely a surprise; we were very grateful,” said Hounakey.

“There are [students of color] in this crowd who didn’t know that there were people who cared as deeply as you did,” Williams said at the chapel.