Vigil held in honor of black and transgender victims of gun violence

Sam Chaney, Managing Editor

Just after Parkland students and other survivors of gun violence spoke to the Jacksonville community at the Road to Jax: Town Hall event on July 27, activists proceeded to gather in the center of the John A. Delaney Student Union to hold a separate vigil.

Lili Weinstein
A shirt that was displayed prominently at the vigil. “I’ve been to the future. We won.”

While the vigil was initially spurred by the death of Clearwater resident Markeis McGlockton on July 19, the vigil’s purpose was ultimately in remembrance of all the black and LGBTQ Americans who were killed as a result of gun violence.

According to Lakey Love, a training coordinator for Equality Florida, the event was a collaborative effort between Equality Florida, Pulse activists and Parkland activists.

“We’re here also to stand in solidarity for police accountability and against gun violence,” Love explained. “And also to speak out against hate crimes and the targeted attacks and use of guns on the most oppressed and marginalized in our society.”

As the attendees and survivors of Parkland slowly trickled in from the town hall event, they began to form a circle in a physical show of solidarity and comfort. Candles were placed in the center on the ground and hands were filled with various signs written with words of remembrance.

Leaders of the vigil led fellow activists in a call and response with names, followed by the word, “ashe,” which means “so it is” in Yoruba.

Celine Walker. Ashe.

Trayvon Martin. Ashe.

Sandra Bland. Ashe.

One by one, activists called out the names of the fallen members of their community, calling for justice and accountability.

Helena Ramsay. Ashe.

Cathalina James. Ashe.

Markies Glockton. Ashe.

Then, UNF student and member of the UNF Students for a Democratic Society, Michael Sampson, came forward to speak out on police brutality. Not only did he affirm his belief that police violence is synonymous to gun violence, but he also offered his perspective and fears on the Stand Your Ground law, which allows prospective victims to use forceful defense without retreating.

In his opinion, there is an inherent flaw in the law, as it may lead to unnecessary violence against people of color.

“If someone is a racist, they see a black person and they automatically feel fear,” he said. “They’re trying to move this society back to the wild, wild west, and that’s not a life we want.”

But Sampson wasn’t the only one to speak out on his fear of vilification as a member of a marginalized group.

“I’m non-binary and, being part of the trans community, these past few months after all these trans women of color have been murdered, I personally feel very, very frightened. Both for myself and for my friends who are also part of the trans community,” incoming UNF freshman, Ezra Benevidez, told the Spinnaker. “And the police aren’t doing anything, and they are misgendering us and not respecting the community, and it’s hurtful. I honestly don’t know if I could feel safe from the police.”

Finally, Event Coordinator Michael Anderson led the vigil attendees in a last call and response chant to close out the event. One by one, they all called out in a collective cry for “power, transformation and miracles.”

“I want it. I need it,” the attendees chanted together. “I’ve got to have it. Right now.”

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