The Rutgers National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held a vigil at Brower Commons on Friday in honor of Breonna Taylor and other female victims of police brutality.
Jafari Wells, president of the Rutgers NAACP and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said approximately 70 people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the Delta Iota Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Xi Nu Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Rutgers United Black Council.
The NAACP’s idea for holding an event at Rutgers in honor of Taylor arose after news broke last month that a grand jury declined to charge the officers who shot and killed Taylor in a botched police raid back in March.
“Initially, my first thought was rage. I was angry, confused and honestly just disgruntled with the justice system — or supposed justice system — that we have in America,” Wells said. “I wanted to figure out a way that we could best demonstrate that communal frustration that we all harbor toward the results (of Taylor’s case).”
The Rutgers NAACP originally considered planning a demonstration against the lack of police accountability nationwide, but Wells said logistical challenges and hesitation from Rutgers administrators prevented them from holding a protest at this time.
To ensure Taylor’s case was still recognized publicly within the Rutgers community, Wells said the Rutgers NAACP created the Breonna Taylor Action Committee to organize this vigil.
“The vigil itself came about by us trying to figure out a way to demonstrate our rage and sorrow, while also celebrating the life — or what could have been the life — of Taylor,” he said.
At the event, Wells said approximately seven people spoke, including himself, to share their thoughts and feelings on Taylor’s death and police brutality. Wells said it is important for the community to come together and recognize the struggles Black women face, whether at the hands of the police or in their daily lives.
“I think it's time for us as a community, specifically the Black diaspora community on (the) Rutgers campus to … become conscious of what we're dealing with — and this is a continuous system of oppression for the Black woman body,” he said.
Wells said the vigil aimed to bring attention to the lack of coverage on Black women who are victims of police brutality, considering the majority of victims who receive national attention are men.
“I just want to make sure people know that there is not just Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson (and) Sandra Bland — there (are) many women who have been victims of police brutality,” he said. “If we're able to spread that message and help Rutgers students understand that there are things that they can do about it, whether it be symbolically or whether it be taking it into their own hands and (becoming) our lawmakers in the future and actually (changing) the outcome for our people, that's something that we wanted to do.”
The Rutgers NAACP has not yet planned any other events for this semester, but Wells said he will be working with other groups and student organizers on campus to come up with ideas on how to further bring attention to this issue and mobilize students to take action.
“I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be more demonstrations,” he said. “This injustice is going to continue, so we should continue to express our grief and sorrow and anger with the continuous injustice that Black women face in this country by the criminal justice system as well as the policing system.”