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‘Black Lives Matter’ vigil held at Marshall

Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer President Jerry Gilbert speaks as student organizations at Marshall University unite for a candlelight vigil regarding social injustices on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer
President Jerry Gilbert speaks as student organizations at Marshall University unite for a candlelight vigil regarding social injustices on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As America yells at itself about whose lives matter, Marshall University freshman Derek Rankin offered a simple solution for how to bring all sides to the table.

“There shouldn’t be sides,” said Rankin, an African-American student from Huntington and president of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Nu Nu chapter. “The phrase ‘black lives matter’ often gets switched around to say only black lives matter, and that’s not the case. It’s just that right now, black lives don’t tend to matter as much as other lives do.”

Rankin and around 30 students and faculty gathered on the Memorial Student Center Plaza Wednesday for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of those recently killed during police encounters across the country, regardless of race, color, ethnicity or religion.

 “It doesn’t have to be violent to protest, and it doesn’t have to be violent to stand in solidarity with somebody,” Rankin said. “You can do it peacefully, lovingly, and we can pass peace around just by lighting a candle.”

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert was on hand with a few words of support, reaffirming the university’s commitment to inclusion and dialog and voicing his support for the beliefs behind “black lives matter.” The vigil falls in the middle of Marshall’s “Community Policing Week,” during which the university sponsors open dialog and seminars between the student body and local law enforcement.

“(Marshall) is doing a fine job making sure that tensions and relations between police officers and students on campus go fairly well,” Rankin commented, adding the university has its flaws like any other. “We can’t really fix those (flaws). All we can do is try to bring awareness to them.”

 In a time of high racial tension, Rankin said it’s especially important for solidarity to build within the youth and on the college campus.

“We are the future, so change starts with us,” Rankin said. “It’s too late to try to change people older than us. There needs to be a central focus on our generation, because it’s going to be our world soon.”

Community Policing Week continues Thursday with the “Ask the Chiefs” luncheon at noon in the Memorial Student Center’s Room BE5. The town-hall style meeting is open to the public, and will open for questions with local police chiefs, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and Huntington mayor Steve Williams and law enforcement about social justice issues in the community.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

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