Augustana hosts vigil to grieve those lost to injustice

Augustana+Senior+Jacob+Washington+speaks+at+the+Vigil+for+Lives+Lost+at+Ericson+Field+on+Thursday%2C+September+24%2C+2020.%0APhoto+by+Chris+Ferman.+

Augustana Senior Jacob Washington speaks at the Vigil for Lives Lost at Ericson Field on Thursday, September 24, 2020. Photo by Chris Ferman.

Phea Gonzalez

Photo above: Augustana Senior Jacob Washington speaks at the Vigil for Lives Lost at Ericson Field on Thursday, September 24, 2020. Photo by Chris Ferman.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, Augustana held an event on Ericson Field, the football field, to mourn the lives lost of people of color as a result of an unjust police system.
When walking through the gates, every person grabbed a candle and took a place on the field to wait for the event to begin. When group organizers directed the mourners to light their wicks and stand, hundreds of candles burned bright on the field while the names of dozens lost to injustice were spoken in unison.
After a moment of silence, several speakers took the stage throughout the night to speak on their own experiences and the stories of their fellow students.
Dr. Monica Smith, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said in the first speech of the night that the event wasn’t just to “remember the lives lost to racial injustice,” but to also “highlight the gaps Augustana still needs to fulfill in achieving our mission and our vision.”
Jacob Washington, senior and president of the Black Student Union, played a large part in organizing the vigil. He took the podium next, listing out everything that needs to change at Augustana.
Washington called for clearer language about  racial bias incidents and better reporting. Washington also called for more support for the culture houses and an effort to recruit and retain more people of color in the student body and staff, including the need for a counselor of color.
One issue Washington brought up was the limited on-campus job opportunities for international students.
“By the time that they get their social security information… the majority of the jobs here are gone,” Washington said.
Darlington Sehgbean, first year and student government international senator, said that getting a job on or off-campus is very difficult as an international student..,
“If you are not hiring us with opportunities on campus, no one is going to empower us with opportunities off campus,” Sehgbean said.
There was emphasis that people on the Augustana campus have played in racism before.
“The Augustana community is not exempt from any type of racism or hate speech,” junior Lyka May Canto said before speaking on behalf of sophomore Joyce Matanguihan.
“As members of the Augustana community, we must educate ourselves, work on dismantling our own biases and support black communities,” Matanguihan said.
There were examples of how, even not long ago, racial issues persisted on campus with people in charge of the learning environment.
Caleb Minnis, a junior on the volleyball team, told his story of struggling when an Augie coach was not understanding the changing times.
Ashanti Mobley, a senior, pointed out issues as a black woman with prejudice held by those who worked with students. “[My professor] invalidated my own physical and mental being, which many other professors continue to do after her,” Mobley said.
The main message of the night expressed both by Jacob Mason III, a senior, and Matanguihan was that “all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.”
If you are an ally, the sentiment was echoed that the fight still blazes on. “This is the time for allies to speak for us, not for us to be the victims and to be heard like a broken record,” Minnis said.
Washington wants people to know how important it was for not just people of a certain race, but people of all races to come to culture group events.
“[We expect them to] be packed with inquiry and concern and true, genuine allyship,” Washington said.