CSC hosts vigil supporting Solidarity for Racial Justice
Aidan Lewis | Monday, September 12, 2016
In response to recent events involving racial tension and violence throughout the United States, the Center for Social Concerns and Multicultural Student Programs and Services held a Solidarity for Racial Justice vigil Friday afternoon at Geddes Hall. Melissa Marley Bonnichsen, the Director of Social Concerns Seminars and the main organizer of the event, said racial justice will be a focus this year on campus.
“Today kicks off our own campaign for racial justice,” Bonnichsen said. “In the Center for Social Concerns, this year’s Catholic social teaching theme is solidarity, the soul of development. We believe this is part of our ongoing dialogue about what is at the heart of solidarity and what is at the heart of development.”
The vigil began at Geddes Hall and then continued to the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. Twelve candles bearing the name of a victim of racially charged violence were lit at each location, including candles for Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin and the three Baton Rouge police officers killed July 17.
“We will be mindful of those who are suffering from the senseless violence, those continuing to deal with the harassment and excessive force and those facing oppression in local communities,” Bonnichsen said during the prayer.
The vigil ended at the statue of Father Sorin. Bonnichsen said she hoped students would continue to make Notre Dame a force for good in the world, as Father Sorin predicted.
“Today, our world is torn apart with prejudice, arrogance and pride,” Mylan Jefferson, a senior and a co-chair of the Diversity Council, said during the prayer. “Help us all to love and understand one another better. Give us the courage to work fiercely for racial justice.”
Bonnichsen said the prayer service had been requested by the president of U.S. bishops, who reserved Sept. 9 as a Day of Prayer for racial issues and the newly formed bishops’ task force on race.
“The president of the U.S. bishops commissioned a task force, such that the task force would work together and talk to communities, especially minority communities to think about how parishes and the church as a whole in the United States could figure out how do we promote racial justice, how do we improve the dialogue and how do we participate in the dialogue,” Bonnichsen said.
Sept. 9 was chosen specifically because it is the feast day of St. Peter Claver, who according to Catholic.org ministered to African slaves and worked tirelessly for the abolition of the African slave trade. The date also conveniently fell on the Friday before Notre Dame’s first home football game.
“I think awareness is what Notre Dame needs, especially since it’s a football weekend, so a lot of people will see us,” Marissa Browne, a sophomore attending the vigil, said.
Bonnichsen said there are many more events planned for the Solidarity of Justice Campaign in the near future, including book groups, panel discussions and a Racial Dialogues Week in late October.
“We need to find really plausible and helpful places for action that students can participate in on a daily level,” Bonnichsen said.