Teens and leaders of Bloomington-Normal gathered at McGraw Park on Saturday for a candlelight vigil to honor those whose lives were lost to police brutality.
Hosted by Bloomington-Normal’s Not In Our School organization, student leaders took the stage to express their frustration and grief.
“If all lives matter, why are black women criminalized, ignored, and abandoned? If all lives matter, why hasn’t Breonna Taylor gotten justice?” said Normal West Black Student Union president Jasmyn Jordan.
Following her speech, BSU member Justin Turner took the mic to encourage the fight against systematic oppression.
“Because some think our racial struggle isn’t as bad as it was six years ago, people think it’s OK to ignore it,” Turner said. “America has shown it’s comfortable with the state that we’re in, so it’s time to speak out.”
After the speeches, students lead a march in the nearby neighborhood.
With over 50 people in attendance, students and community leaders held up signs and shouted a variety of statements that brought awareness to their cause.
Not In Our School member Emma Pierce said it was important for her to attend to show support.
“I have friends of all skin colors and the racial oppression of those who are black is not OK,” said Pierce. “It needs to change, something needs to happen.”
Pierce said the reactions to the events by her peers has truly opened her eyes.
“It’s really shown me that people don’t really show you their true colors when you first meet them,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of friends who, since this all went down, shown how truly racist they are and how they don’t care about anything but the color of people’s skin.”
BSU member Aniya Thompson said witnessing the most recent events has made her wonder if she’ll be the next victim.
“I don’t know my fate. Will I be shot dead? Will I be suffocated? Will I be burned alive? I don’t know, but I will do everything in my power to make sure it’s not at the hands of an officer.”
Thompson said although she wishes more Black people attended the march, she understands that some didn’t out of fear.
“A lot of Black people are scared to be here because of past things that have happened like when the motorcyclist drove through us and things of that nature,” Thompson said.
Moving forward, Thompson said she will continue to fight the fight and hopes leaders will begin to take steps to prevent a repeat of the same events.
“I’m a Black woman and this affects me, my future, my children’s future, their children’s future, and it doesn’t stop here,” she said. “We need more laws against hate crimes, microaggressions, and support for things that will make us more of a community than we are.”