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W&M community stands together amid ‘sorrow and awakening’ at virtual vigil

  • Wren Building with three lit lanterns at top of stairs
    In remembrance:  William & Mary community members from near and far joined together in a virtual candlelight vigil Tuesday evening. Speaking from the Wren Yard, President Katherine A. Rowe welcomed participants to “join in reflection and remembrance” in light of recent national events.  Photo by Lisa Crawford
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William & Mary community members from near and far joined together in a virtual candlelight vigil Tuesday evening. Speaking from the Wren Yard, President Katherine A. Rowe welcomed participants to “join in reflection and remembrance” in light of recent national events.

Candles behind Rowe illuminated the front of the Wren Building as she spoke in acknowledgement of nationwide protests seeking social justice and racial equality that were sparked by the recent killings of African-American citizens Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

“Our nation and our community are reeling with sorrow and awakening,” Rowe said. “Words are still hard to come by, yet so many have courageously reached out. I have heard your grief, your experiences, your fears for loved ones.

“Tonight we stand in solidarity with those in our community who are suffering, and we grieve for those across our nation whose lives have been taken brutally by racism and injustice.”

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Chon Glover M.Ed. ’99, Ed.D. ’06, W&M’s chief diversity officer, then acknowledged those whose lives were lost.

“Tonight we call their names, for the named and unnamed Black lives that mattered, and still matter,” Glover said. “We pause for a moment of silence, honoring especially, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd.”

Then followed a moment of silence lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds in acknowledgement of the amount of time Floyd was held facedown in police custody prior to his death in Minneapolis on May 25.

University leadership, faculty, staff and students read pertinent quotes from various scholars and historical figures.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe,” Chief Human Resources Officer Christopher Lee quoted Frederick Douglass.

Anthony Joseph ’21, president of the Student Assembly, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Jody Allen Ph.D. ’07, assistant professor of history and director of the Lemon Project, read from Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.”

“Seeing race is not the problem,” Allen quoted Alexander. “Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. The fact that the meaning of race may evolve over time or lose much of its significance is hardly a reason to be struck blind.

“We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream — a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for.”

Steve Prince, director of engagement and distinguished artist in residence at the Muscarelle Museum of Art, quoted Frederick Buechner’s “Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's Dictionary.”

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors,” Prince quoted Buechner. “With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

The event closed with the Wren Bell tolling as three lanterns flickered on the steps of the building.