The Cultural Network at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith will host a candlelight vigil Wednesday, Oct. 21, honoring the life of Breonna Taylor and mourning the loss of every person who has lost their life at the hands of injustice and brutality.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower on the UAFS campus and will feature music, poetry, guest speakers, and moments of silent reflection. Following the event, LED candles will be lit on the bell tower square, ushering in a moment of silent reflection before the event ends.
“This summer we’ve seen many types of protests as well as the criticism behind some of the outcomes,” said Shannon Hensley, UAFS student and co-organizer of the event. “We want to invite our community and students of UAFS to show the families who have lost lives and those who continue to worry for those of their loved ones that we are here and we extend our love and support beyond social media.”
Hensley will be joined by fellow poets Kellie Lindsey, a senior at UAFS, and Heather Mustin for readings of spoken word, and Kylie Templemeyer
will sing the powerful chants, "I will Rise" and "I Know Where I've Been."
In addition to the student artists, Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker will speak about the importance of racial justice, reformed policing, and civil rights, and will share how the Fort Smith Police Department aims to be a leader in transparency and justice.
UAFS students are encouraged to use the hashtag #roartheirnames in social media posts from the event, signaling the university community’s commitment to fight for injustice, united as Lions.
“We want the world to know that in our little town, where over 76 languages are spoken in our public school students’ homes, that our police chief, our future representatives, our mayor, our citizens, support our POC, see what’s happening and are doing our part to make sure our city doesn’t experience the same,” said Hensley.
Regional political hopefuls Ricky Dale Harrington Jr., candidate for U.S. Senate; Dan Whitfield and Caleb Harwell, District 76 candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, will also be present to offer their support to this important cause.
Taylor, a 26-year-old African American healthcare worker, was shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home March 13, 2020, during a botched raid. The events sparked protests throughout the country. On Sept. 23, it was announced that only one of the three officers involved in the incident would be charged, and the charge would be unrelated Taylor’s death. The continued injustice led organizers across the country to again call for reform in law enforcement to end police brutality and racial injustice.
Culture Network is a student-run organization and language/cultural exchange program started at UAFS in the fall of 2010, which allows all members of the campus community to experience the diverse cultures represented at UAFS and across the world.
UAFS students are encouraged to pre-register through NumaLink and reserve their LED candles.