Daily Egyptian

Black students raise voices against Chicago violence

By Anna Spoerre, @ASpoerre_DE

Black students linked hands and arms Wednesday night to pray for healing in Chicago following protests against police violence. 

The Black Male Roundtable, a registered student organization designed to give African-American males the opportunity to congregate in a safe place, organized the event for 9 p.m. Wednesday at the fountain in front of the Student Services Building.

Voices of Inspiration, a student gospel choir under the direction of president Cody Essien, sang before and after a prayer for change said by Michael Smith. 

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Smith, a junior from Chicago studying political science and president of Black Male Roundtable, suggested the group devote a night of prayer after the release of a video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Responses to the release of the video included protests throughout the city.

“Despite all the marches and protests, we need to stop for a moment … and take a moment of spiritual healing,” Smith said. 

McDonald died after being shot 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was released from jail Monday morning on bail after being charged with first-degree murder for McDonald’s death, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Smith said he and others wanted to send thoughts and prayers to those in Chicago suffering from acts of violence and police brutality.

He said his own reaction to the video was complicated.

“Being from the south side [of Chicago], it’s almost something I’m used to,” Smith said. 

He said he stopped getting the Chicago Tribune because he was tired of reading about black teens shot in the city.

“It’s de-sensitizing,” he said. 

In his prayer, Smith asked God to guide the leaders and youth of Chicago in the right direction. 

As Smith concluded his prayer, members of the choir started humming in unison, taking over the silence in spiritual a capella.

“I feel better, so much better, since I laid my burden down,” were among the lyrics sang by the group.

Essien, a junior from Belleville studying TV and digital media radio, said the gathering was refreshing and uplifting. 

Alexus Murden, a sophomore from Chicago studying health care management, said she was happy to know people still care about those in Chicago. She said she felt close to those in the circle because they struggle with many of the same things she does. 

“Our battle has been long and it’s been tiring,” Smith said. “The same fight that was fought 50 years ago is still being fought today. We still fight the same prejudices, we still fight the same administrative imbalances.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3325

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