One hundred fifty students gathered Sunday night to honor the memory of fallen friend Ayesha Judkins

By Gus Bode

Factoid:In memory of Judkins, members of NABJ have established donation boxes in several areas such as residence halls and the radio and television and journalism offices. The donations will be sent directly to Ayesha’s family to help with funeral costs, and to assist with the cost of a headstone for Judkins.

According to Bradley Wilkins, the positive energy Ayesha Judkins possessed was his main motivation for attending one of his most difficult classes. This same positive energy was the driving force for the approximately 150 people who ventured to Caf Latte to remember her Sunday.

The small area of Caf Latte provided an appropriate setting for a small memorial service, but was not quite large enough for all of those who ventured to the area to remember her.


The group of students and staff members in attendance flooded outside of Caf Latte and occupied even the tables directly outside of the area. The service honored the memory of Judkins, an SIUC junior who was killed by a drunk driver Dec. 28 while on break in Chicago. Judkins close friend, LaTosha Davis, who was with her in the car at the time of the accident, did her best to compose herself while recalling the night of her death.

“I heard her take her last breath,” said Davis, who was the last person to see Judkins alive.

While hospitalized following the accident, Davis said her concerns focused immediately on her friend.”All I kept asking everyone was ‘How’s Ayesha?’ They all kept telling me ‘fine, fine.’ They knew she was dead, but they didn’t want to tell me because my blood pressure was already so high.”

Davis did her best not to cry as she spoke, something that was difficult for many attendants of the service. As often as there were tears, however, there was laughter as friends shared their memories of Judkins.

“She was just a very energetic, good person,” said Ebony Davidson, who had known Judkins since high school. “She was indescribable.”

Roughly 25 students signed up prior to the service to describe their stories of Judkins, whose best friend, Talia Gilmore, described as “caring, genuine and an extrovert.”

Those who signed Gilmore’s list wove their way to the front of the small room to stand before the crowd present to honor Judkins. Friends who opted to speak shared their thoughts and memories in front of a poster honoring Judkins, one of many visual tributes to the young woman many said to be “one of the first people” they met at the University.


Gloria Mosley, the first person to pay tribute to Judkins, opened with a verse read from second Corinthians followed by a short prayer.

“I don’t know how many of you believe in God,” Mosley said prior to her short prayer. “But Ayesha did and I’m doing this for her.”

Mosley ended her tribute with a prayer, one of six composed in honor of the student recognized for her passion for writing. Judkins dedication was apparent not only through her membership in the National Association for Black Journalists, but also through her work on the student creative writing journal, Grassroots.

The dedication of Judkins, who was a member of several campus organizations, was mentioned several times during the service. This initiative would have expanded far beyond collegiate organizations, according to Gilmore, who said she and Judkins planned to create a magazine, “Three Shades,” geared toward minority women.

Some of the 25 speakers talked about their experiences as fellow members and co- workers of Judkins. But even those who knew her from work and class settings had an inspiring, often amusing story to tell about Judkins.

Gilmore began the remembrances with the story of first meeting with her in the bathroom of their dormitory.

“We met in the bathroom when she busted her lip saying her prayers,” said Gilmore, whose fliers and word-of-mouth were the main sources used to inform others of the service. “The first time I met her I thought she was a little weird and she said she thought I was mean and stuck-up. We really started talking after homecoming. We have a lot of the same interests and we just really connected.”

From Gilmore’s story of Judkins’ busting her lip after falling out bed to her former roommates’ recollection of her charisma at Judkins’ first house party, everyone had a story to tell. Even those not as close with her were able to recall an incident where she had a positive affect on them.

“It’s not just by happenstance that you’re here,” said Alfred Jackson, director of student support services, who worked directly with Judkins. “You’re here because she [Ayesha] had a positive effect on you.”

Mario Neither, who worked with Judkins at Trueblood dining hall admitted to not knowing Judkins well, but being affected by her always-joyous demeanor.

“To be honest, I didn’t really know her name but she knew mine and that made me feel kind of special,” Neither said. “This is not of day of sadness, this is a day of celebration for Ayesha Judkins.”

Gilmore said she was satisfied with her decision to play things by ear when it came to the service.

“I just wanted to free-style this, I mean how do you really plan a memorial?”

Though she said she is still trying to cope with the loss of her friend, she said prayer has helped her in the healing process.

“I had to keep it together for everyone else,” she said. “I miss my friend, but I know she’s alright so I can’t cry anymore.”