Students attend poignant black lives matter vigil

Scott Zanella, Staff Writer

On August 20, Gannon’s Black Student Union hosted a Black Lives Matter Vigil in response to worldwide outcry about police brutality and systemic problems of racial inequality. The event was hosted on Friendship Green, in the heart of campus. Students and faculty alike filled the picnic tables, benches and lawn outside of Waldron to support the movement and community.

Once President Jade Hammerer and Vice President Marian Collin Franco opened the vigil, the audience heard from the leadership of the Black Student Union. Each came up to announce a call to action or movement for prayer. One of these movements was a list of African Americans who had died at the hands of police brutality. After reading out their names along with the things they had not been able to do without being brutalized, the audience was asked to respond with the single phrase: “You are a child of God.”

Malik Bridgemen, head of recruitment for Gannon’s Black Student Union, reflected on this, saying: “My life matters regardless of the movement or not. My life should matter not just because I am a black man, it should matter because I am human and a child of God.”

This sums up the message that the Black Student Union was trying to get across. They emphasized that change needs to be made and that these changes will need to be a collaborative effort from everyone, both black and white.

“I think it’s important to recognize our differences,” said Sydney Williams, sophomore biology student. “But we have to use them as a reason to stand together and speak out for those who no longer have the opportunity to.”

Closing out the event with a moment of silence for those lost and a beautiful free-verse poem in in the name of racial equality, the Black Student Union put out an incredible call to action. Attendee Sarah Cucklinski, a junior pre-pharmacy major, elaborated on the humanity of the movement.

“It’s really all about our sense of sympathy at this point,” she said. “The trials and discrimination that most African Americans experience daily are so immense — even in Erie. Events like this get the word out, and once the message is out there, it just isn’t right to sit back and do nothing.”

Doing something to further the movement does not have to be entirely active, either. Jade Hammerer, president of Gannon’s Black Student Union, pushes people to simply educate themselves.

“Taking the time to sit and learn about a topic you are ignorant to gives way to newfound opportunities,” said Hammerer. “Education has the ability to take you all around the world and open your eyes to the hatred that still occupies the deepest corners of our world.”

The Black Lives Matter movement impacts everyone daily, says Dominique Booker, treasurer for Gannon’s Black Student Union.

“Those who attend a university are there to educate themselves, not only on their field of study, but also to open their mind to different perspectives,” she said. “The Black Lives Matter movement is meant to educate and bring awareness, which is exactly what out professors do in the classes we take every day.”

To get involved, watch out for information on future events put on by the Black Student Union. To join the group and be a part of the change, go to EngageU to find their contact information. The leaders of the Black Student Union urge students of all types to join.

“Let us just emphasize that you do not have to be black to join Gannon’s Black Student Union,” they said. “We are looking for allies everywhere, so to Gannon’s students and athletes alike: we would love to see you get involved.”