By Elizabeth Zakaim
Social Media Editor
“I am Eric Garner.”
“I am Prince Jones.”
“I am Frank Shepard.”
These were some of the names spoken in somber remembrance at the vigil held in Alumni Grove on Wednesday, Sept. 21, to honor the countless victims of police brutality.
Students stood in a circle and held posters that paid tribute to victims. Each student at the vigil lit a candle — its warm amber glow a memorial of those lost.
The vigil was sponsored by Chi Upsilon Sigma National Sorority, Inc., and cosponsored by the College’s Black Student Union and Gospel United Ministries.
“As an organization, we knew that this was a prevalent issue that has impacted
our communities negatively, and we could no longer just sit back without doing something,” said Renee Waldron, Chi Upsilon Sigma president and a senior business management major.
Waldron knew it was time to shine a light on the issue and bring some awareness to the campus community.
“We decided to get at least 50 names of the victims whose lives were cut short due to police brutality,” Waldron said. “We also wanted to create a place where the TCNJ community could mourn as a collective unit.”
The vigil brought together students with a common goal: to educate the community on police brutality and incite a call to action that would end the growing list of affected families and victims.
“Standing in that circle, holding that name, lighting that candle — I had so many conflicting emotions. Sadness. Fear. Disgust. Indignation,” said Sarah Bennet, Black Student Union president and a sophomore elementary education and math double major. “We went around the circle and said the name of each victim. My heart grew heavier and heavier as the names piled one on top of the other. I sensed the mutual pain emanating from each voice, (so much so) that it brought me to tears.”
Sometimes it’s easy to think that such tragedies won’t happen to you or someone you know. But Mella Teshome, Black Student Union member and a sophomore communication major, learned that night that it can happen to anyone.
“I saw how many of us there were and how many names, and the fact that there are almost 2,000 people this year alone who have been killed by police is mind blowing,” Teshome said. “I want people to learn that this is a big deal. It can be your uncle, aunt, cousin, sister or brother. It can happen to anyone, and there has to be something done about it.”
Though the mood was somber, Waldron was pleasantly surprised by the amount of students that came and the overwhelming support they showed.
“We were very appreciative of the support that we received from the TCNJ community, including student, faculty and even the police officers that are on campus,” Waldron said.
The best part of the huge turnout was the reminder that the issue is important to everyone despite their differences.
“We felt like we weren’t alone,” Waldron said. “Everyone that could and wanted change came out regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or social status. We all came together as one and stood for something greater than ourselves.”