Ferguson vigil and town hall address institutional racism in the US

Photo/Mike Lovett

Several hundred members of the Brandeis community, including students, faculty, staff, chaplains, and public safety, gathered by Chapels Pond on Thursday, Sept. 4 in memory of the lives lost to institutional racism in the United States.

The vigil was organized by student organizations in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the events that followed in the small city just northwest of St. Louis.

“The shooting death of Michael Brown is in part so tragic for the fact that it is not unique,” said Chad Williams, chair of the African & Afro-American Studies Department. “It is yet another incident in a larger systemic pattern of aggressive policing of black men and women that frequently leads to their death, and another page in this country's long historical narrative of black suffering. I am heartened that the Brandeis community has come together to confront these issues that affect us all as human beings. We must use this moment to grow as a campus community and stand at the forefront of a movement to push America to mature as a nation.”

The evening of introspection and community featured a moving poetry slam from Dean of Students Jamele Adams and students from several different organizations, who spoke powerfully to a silent crowd. The Rev. Matt Carriker led the crowd in song, and Chief of Police Ed Callahan shared his insights. The vigil concluded with three minutes of silence as the candles were lit, followed by a town hall forum moderated by President Frederick M. Lawrence, professor Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson and Williams in Berlin Chapel.

“Students don’t come to Brandeis just to learn about the world or to understand the world, they come here to affect the world,” said Lawrence. “It was an honor to be with so many members of this amazing community. I also want to extend a special thanks to our student organizers, Justin Cates and D'Andre Young, for having the vision to put together this wonderfully Brandeisian event.”

This event was sponsored by The Men and Women of Color Alliances, the Brandeis Black Student Organization, the Brandeis African Student Organization, the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Students Organized Against Racism, the University Chaplaincy, and the Intercultural Center.

To help continue the conversation, the event sponsors have compiled a resource guide and the following information on the events from Ferguson and related issues. There is also a Twitter feed, #Fergusonsyllabus, that provides extensive information.

How to Teach Kids About What's Happening in Ferguson,” Marcia Chatelain

What I Saw in Ferguson,” Jelani Cobb

The Fury in Ferguson and Our Forgotten Lessons From History,” Heather Ann Thompson

Black People Are Not Ignoring ‘Black on Black’ Crime,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Categories: General, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage