Following Monday's grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer that shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in August, protests and outrage criss-crossed the nation. On Tuesday night, the Evanston and Northwestern communities came together in solidarity with Brown and the people of Ferguson and to express their emotions following the heavy verdict.
Interfaith vigil held in Evanston
Over 150 people of all ages and races in the Evanston community gathered on Tuesday night in the Unitarian Church of Evanston to hold a vigil for Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson.
“We do not assemble tonight because we know Michael Brown personally,” said Rev. Dr. Karen E. Mosby, moderator of the vigil and a pastor at the Second Baptist Church, “but because we have known other Michael Browns in recent history and throughout history. In one way or another we have been divided, wounded and burned by the flames of violence, injustice and racism.”
Mosby said the vigil was organized to bring together the resources of the various faiths in the community to create a “sacred space” to cope with the pain, rage and disappointment following the verdict.
To begin the ceremony, religious leaders from various Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Unitarian denominations gave prayers, and the music team from the Second Baptist Church sang gospel songs.
Muhammad Saiduzzaman, the president of the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid Community Center and a Muslim preacher, spoke about how important it is to come together “in a time like this when the state of the world is continuously devaluing love.”
“All life is priceless,” said Muhammad Saiduzzaman, the president of the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid Community Center. “We know we continually make mistakes and decisions that affect the lives of others. Only by devaluing the lives of others do we bring misery to our own lives.”
Local political figures Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Chief of Police Richard Eddington also gave speeches on the work the City of Evanston is doing to make sure the racial injustice of Ferguson does not occur here.
“The torch has been passed to us,” said Eddington, “to make a place where racial harmony is possible.”
The highlight of the vigil was a poem Ornella Umubyeyi, a student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, read called “Some Type of Way” which received a standing ovation.
“Black lives still don’t matter, but I also feel some type of way to know that the Evanston faith leaders came together to offer a space for community prayer and a reminder that we are not standing alone,” recited Umubyeyi. “Because at the end of the day, I feel in the middle of my battles and in the midst of injustice, God’s love will prevail even in the darkest of times.”
The ceremony closed with the people standing in a large circle around the edges of the church with candles light and raised, singing and then remaining silent for four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours Brown was left in the middle of the street after he was shot.
At the end of the ceremony, some had tears in their eyes.
“This is a time when we needed to be together with the community,” said Tisdahl, who thought the vigil was beautiful.
Dennis Leaks, a sergeant with EPD who attended the vigil said he would have attended regardless of whether or not he was a police officer because of the importance of events like this for the community.
"The idea of all faiths coming together and healing and praying and getting past a hurtful situation is always a good thing," said Leaks. "I think that a lot of the problems are based because of our firm religious beliefs and at the end of the day we have more in common than we have opposed, and if we start to try to see that, we'll be better off all around and in the world."
InterVarsity hosts vigil in Multicultural Center
About 30 students gathered in the second floor TV lounge of the Multicultural Center at 6 p.m. for a prayer session in response to yesterday's grand jury decision.
Led by Northwestern InterVarsity leader HC Yang, the event was a space to "lament and mourn for the inequality of our nation."
After a brief introduction by Yang and a four-and-a-half-minute moment of silence, the group lit candles to honor the young, unarmed black men whose last words were memorialized in August with journalist Shirin Barghi's #lastwords image series.
"Northwestern does care," said Communication senior and event organizer Jane Kim. "Communities do care about what's going on."