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Vigil honors grief and healing after hate crimes

Members of the University of La Verne community – including students, faculty and staff – gathered for the We Are One Community vigil Monday evening in Sneaky Park to light candles to lament the recent acts of violence. The vigil included readings from University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner and a performance by the University chorale. / photo by Ariel Torres

Jocelyn Arceo
Editor in Chief

In response to last week’s apparent hate crimes – a racist threat on social media directed at a specific group of students, followed by arson in a student’s car – the University held a candlelit vigil at 5 p.m., Monday, in Sneaky Park as an act of solidarity.

Over 350 community members attended the vigil where University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner led community members through prayer and words of optimism, the University chorale sang various songs of hope and unity, and students read poetry and prose.

“As one person wrote today in the chapel, ‘Sometimes there just aren’t any words that are sufficient. My heart grieves,’” Wagoner said. “With that in mind, would you please join me in a moment of silence to honor the pain and the sorrow and the brokenness.”

Classes were canceled Friday after Campus Safety received a report of arson and theft in Parking Lot H2 beside the Oaks dormitories. This followed a report Thursday of racist threats made against two students via an anonymous Instagram account. The message included a photo of students protesting racism on campus, and indicated that the sender knew students’ routines, including where they live and where they park their cars.

Wagoner said that this was a time for the community to gather and lament the violence while supporting each other through the grief, anger and confusion resulting from the attack.

She also told a story of a passage in the Bible, 1 Kings, of Elijah, who was suffering from a torn down spirit and searching for a sign of hope at the top of a mountain. Elijah screamed toward the heavens, but was only met with a vicious storm.

However, after the storm there remained a small spark out of the ashes, something Wagoner called a still, small voice, or an inner light.

“I imagine we will be in and out of this storm for a while,” Wagoner said. “What we need is already here – us, our individual still small voices, our inner light, our sparks, these prayers, these hopes, these intentions to do better and be better. Out of the firestorm, out of the ashes can come light. It is up to us to bring forth the insight and wisdom of these still small voices.”

“The spark is already here, what we need is us,” she said.

As community members began to light candles, the University chorale sang before Wagoner asked for everyone to face the center and look around to see who makes up the community they all belong to.

“Please notice the significance of your candle, your individual spark, your unique dreams and contributions to this campus. Collectively, our lights are a beacon of hope and a light for justice,” Wagoner said. “Thank you for bringing your light here today, it is inspiring and hopeful.”

Devorah Lieberman, University president, said it is important for us as a community to come together with respect for one another in order to heal, and be better together.

“When I looked around and I saw hundreds of students and faculty here, I said, ‘I’m not just taking it seriously, but the entire campus is taking it seriously,’” Lieberman said. “We’re in a storm, but there is a spark and we have to be one with our community and be better.”

Juan Regalado, dean of students, said this is only the first step in coping with the traumatic events that have transpired.

“This is not a resolution,” Regalado said. “This is an initial baby step in the right direction because there’s going to be a lot more that we need to do as a community to take care of each other.”

Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at jocelyn.arceo@laverne.edu.

Ariel Torres

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