By Dylan Manfre
Rider’s Vigil of Hope and Healing for Racial Justice event on April 25 was held with the goal of “acknowledging the hurt our students, faculty and staff are experiencing, and to take healing steps toward racial justice.”
Multiple speakers implored a community of socially distant observers on the Campus Mall to show support to the Black and brown community and seek healing.
Graduate student Marcus White began the vigil with a moment of silence.
Then, multiple Rider students read the names of 18 lives lost to police brutality in the month since the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in May 2020.
“Today in the face of adversity, and the discouraging reality that our Black and brown brothers and sisters are dying at the hands of law enforcement, we prepare our hearts and minds and spirits to stand against this injustice,” White said. White as well as two other students led the attendees in repeating forceful statements aimed at empowering people to embrace each other’s differences and championing equality. Upon entry, each person was given a glow stick candle to hold up as they chanted.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”
“It is our duty to win.”
“We must love each other and support each other.”
“We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Junior sports media major James Green’s favorite part of the ceremony was the chanting because he felt a sense of community.
“I felt like everything we were saying was something that was very powerful. It was something heart-spoken and heartfelt,” Green said. “That was the moment that brought us all together. That was something that we all needed.”
White, who is also a preacher at a Brooklyn church, said he has heard of other colleges holding vigils so he felt compelled to speak when Rider held one of its own.
“With so much that has occurred in our society I think it was an outstanding way for the university to respond,” White said. “These have been some trying times and if there was ever a time where we needed to activate our faith, it’s now.”
Days before the Rider-hosted vigil, a group of students organized a vigil of their own on April 22.
Freshman exercise science major Corrine Walton-Macaulay along with two friends assembled the impromptu vigil to honor the life of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot and killed by police in Ohio.
A group of about 25 students gathered outside The Pub to share stories, express anger and frustration as well as offer support. Students held glass candles and placed them in front of a sign of Bryant’s name.
However, one of Walton-Macaulay’s concerns was about what would be said by the university at the April 25 vigil.
“I’m worried that they will try to center themselves,” Walton-Macaulay said. “If they were talking about accountability and I really hope that’s something that they actually talk about and are actually willing to do because they can talk about it all they want. But what is it until some action happens? I want to see things actually happening and changing.”
At the university-sponsored vigil, Rider President Greg Dell’Omo promoted some of the actions the university has taken such as opening the Center of Diversity and Inclusion and its plans to hire a Chief Diversity Officer, who will directly report to Dell’Omo. He also highlighted how it has been “an emotional week” with the Chauvin trial verdict on April 20.
“Our employees including faculty and staff search processes now includes greater focus on diversity of candidates,” Dell’Omo said. “As a result, we anticipate that 50% of our new hires in Fall 2021 will be faculty of color.”
After Rider’s vigil, Green felt that the Rider event was “genuine” and “this was something that was all for the greater good.”