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DePaul students remember Rekia Boyd at on-campus vigil

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A small crowd of about 20 people huddled together on DePaul’s Quad on Wednesday evening. It was a cold, windy evening, unsuited for a candlelight vigil, but people continued to show up, eventually swelling the crowd to 100. They were there to honor Rekia Boyd, a Chicago woman killed by police in 2012, and her family. Soon, television crews from CBS, Telemundo, and other stations arrived. Students passed out yellow candles, pictures of Rekia, and “stop murder by police” signs. Yellow was Boyd’s favorite color.

Edward Ward, president of Men of Vision and Empowerment (MOVE) was waiting for Rekia’s brother, Martinez Sutton, to start the event. Ward said he did not plan on the media attention, and wanted to keep the event as a vigil, not a protest.

“We just really want to honor Rekia and her family,” Ward said. “It is dangerous when people do this for the recognition.”

Rekia Boyd was killed by an off-duty police officer just over three years ago. On April 20, the officer, Dante Servin, was found not guilty of one count of involuntary manslaughter and three count of reckless discharge of a firearm. The judge said that the prosecution failed to prove that Servin acted recklessly.

MOVE, a DePaul student organization, sponsored the event to bring awareness to the violence that black women suffer at the hands of police. The crowd was made up of DePaul students and concerned citizens unaffiliated with DePaul and a range of ages and races.

“It’s exhausting to understand all the black people getting hurt by police,” Caray Neal, a DePaul student, said. “It’s basically ignored by DePaul professors, we don’t talk about it in class. It’s just frustrating.”

Sam Signorelli, another DePaul student, said he was there to honor Boyd.

“It’s important for members of the DePaul community, in line with the Vincentian mission of human dignity, to remember that all black lives matter,” Signorelli said.

As the crowd waited for the event to begin, people started lighting candles, shielding them from the wind with hands, fliers, and notebooks.

Antonio Bacon, a Roosevelt University student who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, said he heard about the event through Facebook friends affiliated with Generation Progress, a youth organization focused on social and political change.

“We see it all the time in the media,” Bacon said. “State-sanctioned violence is still violence.”

Ashton Shelton came to the event with Bacon. She, too, grew up on the South Side.

“The police patrol my neighborhood daily, stop my neighbors,” she said. “Even if they’re on their porch. We can’t even be in the comfort of our own homes.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped,” Bacon added. “Luckily, it’s never escalated to [violence].”

Kaylah Norris, the treasurer of MOVE, gave the opening remarks.

“We are here to honor the lives of our black sisters,” she said. “Rekia’s life matters. Our lives matter.”

After Threada Young sang the gospel hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” Ward took to the podium to speak about police brutality.

“We continue to be lynched by the injustice system,” Ward said. “We stand to remember Rekia Boyd, who not four years ago walked the streets of Chicago with a smile as bright as the sun.”

Elijah Obasanya, a DePaul junior, spoke next. Rather than anger, he spoke about his love for the black community.

“Have anger, acknowledge your fury,” he said. “But never forget that it comes from a foundation of love.”

A couple more students spoke before Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton, took the microphone. Cara Anderson read her poem “Memo.” Blake Perry talked about the necessity of speaking about injustice and police brutality.

Sutton had just returned from Geneva, Switzerland, where he was part of a United Nations public hearing about the United States’ human rights record pertaining to police brutality and racism. He gave an emotional speech about Boyd, and recalled the last months of her life.

“It’s hard to live every day without her, but it gives me strength to do what I do,” Sutton said, “because I know she would do the same for me.”

Then, Sutton began to speak about his experience with violence, police brutality and the justice system.

“I’ve been dodging bullets my whole life,” he said; the crowd responded with claps and shouts of understanding.

Sutton said he was angry that the police officer will not be charged, especially since he showed no remorse.

“He gets to go home and continue to make memories,” he said. “I’ve got to go to T-shirt shops.”

He took off his jacket to show the shirt underneath. Under a photo of Boyd it read: “They took my life, but not my voice.” The back said “I am Rekia Boyd.”

Sutton thanked the crowd for coming out, saying that he has been going to vigils and protests for three years, and it is the support of the community that keeps him going.

“It gives me strength to continue to fight,” he said. “It lets me know that the fight is not worthless. I am Rekia Boyd.”

The leaders then laid sunflowers in honor of Boyd. After a moment of silence, the vigil closed with Jeremy Washington, a member of R&B group “The Remedy” singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”

“It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will,” he sang of a song was written over 50 years ago.  The message is still being heard today.

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DePaul students remember Rekia Boyd at on-campus vigil