In silence, more than 200 Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students marched up the Peabody Esplanade on Sept. 6 as part of a vigil celebrating humanity, reason, civility and love. The march was followed by a series of Vanderbilt community members speaking on the Wyatt steps about diversity, inclusion and activism.
The vigil was inspired by recent events across the country and on college campuses that have, according to Associate Dean Sharon Shields of Peabody College, highlighted a rise in racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance and hatred. This particular vigil was inspired by current events like the Charlottesville protests, but it is not the first time that Peabody College has hosted an event like this.
“Over the years there have been vigils for various causes where it was important for our community to come together to be in solidarity and to have a visible way to express feelings, care, and unity,” Shields said.
Organized by Dean Camilla Benbow, Associate Dean Monique Robinson-Nichols, Shields and a committee of faculty, students and administrators, the vigil began with a walk up from the bottom of Peabody lawn to the steps of Wyatt. Event goers made the walk hand in hand and in silent reflection.
“Marching up the lawn in silence as a community gave us a time of reflection, to participate in an active way to express our ideals of pluralism, equality, inclusion, free speech and non-violence,” Shields said. “It allowed our community to take action with our feet to visibly proclaim those values. The march was a symbolic representation of the intention of the vigil: to come together.”
After the speaking program, participants had the option to write down their thoughts and reflections on notecards and display them outside of Wyatt Center. Those notes will be used to provide talking points for the upcoming facilitated discussions about shared humanity, which will take place in Wyatt on Sept. 13 from 12:15 to 1:15. According to Shields, the discussions are meant to continue the conversations that began to take place at the march.
“It affords us an opportunity to come together in discussion to further express our reflections and thoughts on the events that brought us together for the vigil,” Shields said. “It allows us to hear diverse opinions and thoughts but also to find common ground and to bring about more understanding.”
Photos by Claire Barnett & Hannah Haecker // The Vanderbilt Hustler