Rain Fails to Dampen Spirit at Vigil for Black Lives

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016, 7:26 am
Heather Paris

Above:  LaShawn Erby addresses the crowd

A downpour of rain didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees at a vigil to honor black lives held in East Lansing last week. As people gathered at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6, at the on Grand River Ave and Abbot Rd, median, heavy rain began. Some attendees stood holding a sign in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Others wore plastic ponchos and held the signs above their heads on the edge of the median. Still others stood for the two-hour vigil soaked to the bone. Many of the signs read Stop Police ViolenceBlack Lives Matter or White Silence=Violence.

The event was organized by individuals, not organizations, in coordination with Black Lives Matter Lansing. The idea came from Donna Kaplowitz, who “put out a call to take action.” Kaplowitz’s reason for wanting to take action is that she “need(s) to live where this is possible.”

Chris Root, another organizer “felt white people should do something” to support Black Lives Matter.

The vigil was well-attended and a variety of people were scheduled to speak, or sing, throughout the peaceful protest. According to Root, 115 people attended the vigil. Speakers included Rabbi Michael Zimmerman of Kellihat Israel, who called for “No more school to prison pipeline.” Melanie Morrison, Director of Allies for Change, urged the audience to take action, emphasizing that “none of us are exempt.” She gave examples of action that could be taken including protesting and boycotting. She posed the question, “What would it mean to live in a city where people were changing others’ despair?”

LaShawn Erby, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Lansing, addressed the common misconceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement. “There is no hierarchy of worth. We mourn all unnecessary loss of life.” Jonathan Langley, a Grand Ledge resident whose neighborhood was vandalized with racial slurs in August, shared that he gets stopped by the police twice a year. Paulette Granberry Russell, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives at MSU, proclaimed, “Violence destroys lives first, then sense of security and trust.”

The vigil wound down with a reading of the names of black people who have been killed by police. After each name was read, the crowd answered with, “Their name matters.” The event concluded with the organizers, along with musicians Karen and Elijah Hoene and Barb Barton, leading the protesters in We Shall Overcome.

Related upcoming events include an MSU student-led protest, Which Side Are You On? to take place on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 4:30 p.m. Their goal is to convince MSU to take a stance that Black Lives Matter. An East Lansing Police Community Forum will be held Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center.

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