Vigil Brings Awareness to Value of all Lives
By Sara Owen, Managing Editor
“All Lives Matter” is a trending phrase, motto and social media hashtag that has caught the attention of thousands over the last several months. On Feb. 20, more than 50 UNCP students, faculty and staff held a candlelight vigil to bring awareness to a growing trend of violence in the United States.
On Feb. 12, three UNC-Chapel Hill students were murdered in their apartment in Chapel Hill, N.C. The accused killer Craig Stephen Hicks, shot and killed Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. A motive has yet to be given or proven for why Hicks committed the crime.
Some media outlets claim it was related to a parking spot dispute, while others reported that the victims were killed for being Muslim.
Many speakers at the vigil said that they thought media outlets were too quick to point out the races of the suspect and victims when it was first reported.
Dr. Robert Canida, director of the office of diversity and inclusion, hosted the vigil and program which followed in Mary Livermore Library. He said students came to him wanting to know what UNCP planned to do for the UNC students that had been killed. He said he thought that the gesture was “powerful.”
“We should never forget that all lives matter,” Dr. Canida said.
Rev. Don Goforth spoke about the Christian theory of creation and the value of human life. He is the pastor of Great Marsh Baptist Church in St. Pauls and the Graduate Advisor to UNCP’s Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
Rev. Goforth said that when lies are told too often, it can lead to violent results. He said societies, families and friendships “cannot exist without truth.”
“Our best response is to love each person we come into contact with,” Rev. Goforth said.
Dr. Mohammad Rahman, an assistant professor for the school of business accounting and finance department, talked about the impact of recent events on American society.
“The Eric Garner incident has shaken our society,” Dr. Rahman said.
He also quoted Mother Teresa, who said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Students Jocelyn Frink and Jasmine Jacobs spoke as well.
Frink told the audience that they had their “heart” in a “better place” for attending despite the extremely cold weather.
Jacobs said she knew a victim named Faith Hedgepath, who was mentioned in the program. She said she knew Hedgepath from before college and that she had impacted her life.
Other students including Jamar Smith, Raven Coots and Javier Carranza spoke about similar events in their lives during the open sharing session near the end of the program.
Carranza said his family had lost a relative to an unjust crime. He said he didn’t really know the relative, but that it impacted his family, and his brother was so angry that he considered retaliation.
“What good does retaliation do anybody?” Carranza said.
“Every life is valuable,” Dr. Rahman said.
“If we unite together we can and we will put an end to these unjust acts,” Jacobs said.
The event honored nationally known victims Trayvon Martin, Matthew Shephard, Michael Brown, Brandon Teena, Lennon Lacy, the UNC-Chapel Hill students, NYPD police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos and many others.
The victims of various violent crimes and shootings were honored with a slideshow memorial, a prayer from Rev. Goforth and a song by Junior Miss Lumbee Calista Dean.
A traditional Sufi Muslim poem of peace was read aloud by UNCP student Emily Ashley.
Photos by Sara Owen. Students, faculty and staff walk across the Jones bridge in silence to support “All Lives Matter” on Feb. 20. Lisa Bullard, left, and Virgil Oxendine, center, stand with their candles waiting for the vigil to begin on Feb. 20.