Calls for Justice Heard at NAACP Black Lives Matter Vigil
Arts and Entertainment Editor
The student-run chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a candlelight vigil in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the evening of September 1 at Old Dominion University.
Over 100 students and faculty members gathered on the dimly lit steps outside Webb Center, holding tea light candles and comforting their peers. Fliers were passed out detailing the deaths of African-American citizens throughout the nation whose names have been spread across social media using #BlackLivesMatter.
“We’re here to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives due to police brutality,” said Samantha Conyers, President of the NAACP chapter at ODU.
The national Black Lives Matter movement was created in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Though the case hasn’t gathered as much national media attention, a local 18-year old and unarmed man, William Chapman II was fatally shot by Stephen Rankin, a Portsmouth police officer in April.
Chapman had walked to a local Wal-Mart near his home early in the morning on April 22. After several hours had passed and Chapman had not returned home, his mother, Sallie Chapman called the police station. After verifying Chapman’s information, she was informed of his death.
The teen’s mother and cousin, Earl Lewis, spoke to vigil attendants about the importance of taking action in their communities.
Shortly after Lewis began, the microphone system failed.
“The microphones aren’t working, but guess what? I am. My voice will be heard tonight,” Lewis said.
Lewis recounted his cousin’s last moments as Chapman’s mother sat quietly in the background. As Lewis paced along the wide steps, his voice rang out over Kauffman mall.
“In our neighborhoods, we hurt each other. It’s time to stop,” Lewis said. “And as long as we hurt each other, other people think they can do it, too.”
Chapman’s mother shared similar sentiments.
“You’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. You don’t just take someone’s life,” she said. “But that’s what this officer did.”
Chapman’s family was anxiously awaiting the decision of the Portsmouth grand jury on whether Rankin would be indicted.
“We have faith,” Lewis said. “We just want justice. That’s what this is all about.”
Two days later, the grand jury released their decision, and Rankin was indicted for first-degree murder.
Floetic Movement, an ODU spoken word and poetry group, and student Rivers Taylor performed during the vigil, lending their talents to the cause.
Montae Taylor, an ODU student and NAACP member, ended the vigil by uniting his peers and calling them to action.
“We’re out here to make noise. We need to let people know that we’re out here,” Taylor said.