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Seeking Justice, SLU Community Holds Prayer Vigil to Remember Victims of Police Brutality

by Carrie Bebermeyer on 04/21/2021
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On Wednesday, April 21, the Saint Louis University community gathered at the Lipic Clock Tower Plaza to remember the victims of systemic racism and police brutality. 

prayer vigil at Lipic Clock Tower Plaza to remember victims of police brutality

Students shared readings and reflections before reading the names of those who have been killed by law enforcement. 

Student and campus leaders shared reflections and readings during a prayer vigil, which came a day after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd last year. 

The vigil began with a welcome from Sue Chawszczewski, Ph.D., director of campus ministry, followed by an opening prayer from David Suwalsky, S.J., SLU’s vice president for mission and identity.

“Some of us might say that prayer is not the solution in times like these, but I believe prayer is the gateway to action,” said Chawszczewski. “We still have work to do so we're going to pray today for peace and justice on our campus, with our neighbors in our community, with our colleagues and our friends, and those we have yet to meet as friends, and in doing that we're going to find ways to continue the work we all need to do.”

University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., urged everyone to consider how they may be called to act to contribute to a more just nation.  

“If you are called use your voice, raise your voice in the pursuit of justice,” said Pestello. “If you are called to bear witness — if you are called to listen — use your ears in the pursuit of justice. All of us are called to continue to act to ensure that each and every one of us — each and every one of us — enjoy all the privileges and benefits of this nation.”

Students shared readings and reflections, and they read the names of those who have been killed by law enforcement.   

Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., SLU’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, was among the administrative and student leaders who helped plan the prayer vigil. 

“I have a lived experience of knowing how to plan for an acquittal, or hung jury or for a conviction on lesser charges,” said Smith. “I have no lived experience in which to plan for simple accountability for a murder witnessed by children, by first responders, by regular citizens and then replayed in such a way that all of us witnessed. And that breaks my heart. That boggles my mind. That troubles my spirit.

“And yet I am grateful that my eyes saw something my grandparents and their parents and their parents have never seen, and because we are the first to see we have a long way to go. We have incredibly hard work in front of us to get to a point where simple accountability is absolutely unremarkable.”

Richard Marks, Ph.D., director of SLU’s Cross Cultural Center, concluded the vigil with a reminder that resources and support are always available through the Dean of Students office, University Counseling Center, Cross Cultural Center and Campus Ministry.