Students hold silent vigil for Michael Brown

Natalie Sullivan

A group of four students held a silent vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue Wednesday afternoon to raise awareness of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, more than three weeks ago.

The students set up the vigil to depict the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager who was killed by a white police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson. Ethnic studies senior Hakeem Adewumi lay at the base of the statue in imitation of a dead body, with bullet wounds depicted and fake blood coming out of his head, while three other students held signs with quotes by Malcolm X and Emmett Till, whose death helped mobilize the African-American civil rights movement in 1955.

African studies senior Jasmine Graham said students staged the vigil to raise awareness of the racial dynamics and police brutality that affect others, particularly people of color.

“We just wanted to bring general awareness to the UT community and to people who probably don’t have to face this reality every day,” Graham said.

Graham said she hoped the vigil would promote dialogue among students about racial issues and find a solution to the problem of excessive police violence.

“We want people to start a conversation because I feel like people are afraid to confront things like this,” Graham said. “If enough people are talking about it, something can actually be done.”

African studies senior Kwanisha West said the group came up with the idea after seeing a group of performance artists stage a similar protest at a park in Philadelphia.

“We saw a video online where a group in Philly did something similar, so we got most of our inspiration for this [vigil] from that,” West said.

The four students wrote the names of people who had been killed in events involving excessive police violence around the country with chalk on the sidewalk near the statue.

Graham said the names showed the widespread occurrence of racism in society today. 

“People might believe that we live in a post-racial society, which isn’t true,” Graham said. “It takes more than one person to overcome something that’s as systemic as profiling or racism in the police force.”

According to Graham, the vigil started around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday and ended around 11:30 a.m.