Student Government hosts candlelight vigil in honor of Tyre Nichols
Students gathered to honor yet another victim of police violence
A vigil put on by the American University Student Government in honor of Tyre Nichols, who died Jan. 10 as a result of multiple beatings by Memphis police officers, was hosted late evening Feb. 15.
Participants of the event were holding candles and white flowers while they listened to featured speakers from SG, Brother Brother and the Black Student Union, who all followed a common theme: that enough is enough when it comes to police brutality toward Black Americans.
“Moments like today are a grave reminder of a persistent lived reality; a pattern of violence that we’ve seen over several decades has yet to come to an end,” said Denia Smith, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, and first-year fellow for the Black Student Union.
Although most speakers expressed emotions such as fear, exhaustion and anger, Jonathan Durham, a junior in SPA, brought a new one to the table: disgust.
Durham posed questions to both University staff and students alike regarding the lack of safety and security for students of color who attend AU. Specifically highlighted was the message, “Black people suck,” which was found written on a whiteboard inside of Bender Library the previous week.
“It is unacceptable that anyone would intentionally cause pain in our community through this kind of hateful act,” the University said in a community-wide communication. “Racism is despicable, and has no place in any community.”
“For a school that prides itself on anti-racism, this is a moment where we dramatically fall short of upholding that promise, and I know we can do better,” Durham said.
Durham also spoke about what he said was a lack of meaningful response from the University and non-Black peers.
“When Black students often discuss the reality and struggles of being Black at AU, it often falls on deaf ears,” Durham said.“And if it doesn’t fall on deaf ears, there’s often a consistent failure of them not using their privilege to enact change that we desperately need to see.”
The speaking portion of the event finished off with a performance of “Swan Lake” by cellist Michael Brown, at which point many audience members were either holding back tears or crying.
Following a two-minute silence in Nichols’ honor, attendees were instructed to lay their candles and flowers beneath a photo of Nichols and take note of a whiteboard which explained further action steps to be taken, including contact information for Memphis’ mayor and county district attorney.
TreVaughn Ellis, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-president of Brother Brother, concluded the evening with a simple question:
“How many more vigils? How many more performances? How many more empty promises and empty calories and more names to add to the list?”
This story was edited by Mackenzie Konjoyan, Jordan Young and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Sarah Clayton Stella Guzik and Luna Jinks.