Student organizations co-host online vigil to honor Black Lives lost to bigotry, racism

Areeba Amer and Neelam Bohra

Students and faculty honored George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality and racism at a virtual vigil Wednesday evening. 

The African American Culture Committee, a subcommittee of Campus Events + Entertainment, and Student Government co-hosted the vigil on YouTube live. The group held an 8-minute-and-46-second-long moment of silence for George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for that amount of time. 

“No matter what we are feeling right now, whether it’s the anger, the overwhelming, the infuriating, the exhaustion, the sadness — all of these are legit emotions and … are warranted, because all these emotions mean you’re alive,” said Ryan Sutton, a director with the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, during the vigil.

The vigil also featured singing, poems and words of encouragement. About 40 people virtually attended, using Youtube comments to show their support. 

“These past few months have definitely sparked a revolution in this country and around the world,” psychology senior Nia Smith said during the vigil. “We definitely need to keep this revolution going to finally see change. Hopefully, one day, we won’t be seen for just the color of our skin. But we need to continue to say their names.”

Mbayi Aben, a human development and family sciences alumna, read the poem “All Eyez On U” by Nikki Giovanni. Faith Avery, a communication and leadership junior, read a piece she wrote herself. 

“My Black, my Brown has lied face down time and time again,” said Avery, also an African and African Diaspora studies junior. “I may be Black. I may be proud. But, I’m also tired.”

Thaïs Bass-Moore, director of the UT Fearless Leadership Institute, a professional and personal development initiative for African American women and Latinas, presented words of encouragement. She said she struggled to come up with the words and felt she needed the encouragement herself. 

“We have to find wise ways of showing our anger, showing our rage, showing our standards (and) showing our doubt,” Bass-Moore said. 

Sutton followed with more words of encouragement. 

“We didn’t lose just another Black man in the street. We lost a father, a son, a brother, an uncle and a grandfather,” Sutton said. “We have to understand that the best way to remember individuals … that senselessly lost their lives is realizing the power that we have in our breath.”

Ethan Jones, SG finance director, said the organization is committed to ensuring that Black voices and causes are advocated for effectively.

“At UT, us 4% can recognize that our experiences as Black Americans are often tokenized in predominantly white spaces,” Jones said, referring to how Black students make up 4% of the student population at UT.

Jones called on allies to mobilize in solidarity with the Black community at UT and with people of color more broadly.

“Black lives matter,” Jones said. “Our lives matter.”

Editor's note:  A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that The African American Culture Committee is part of Student Government. The Texan regrets this error.