by Jasmin Shirazian
Students gathered in the University Center quad on Oct. 27 for a vigil to honor the lives that have been lost due to the war in Palestine.
Student and organizer of the vigil, Jamilla, who has declined to share her last name, began by thanking the crowd for joining her to remember and honor the Palestinian people. She continued speaking about the attacks that had been launched onto civilians, mentioning the resilience of the Palestinian people and expressing thankfulness for the safety of her family members that are still in Palestine.
Jamilla passed the microphone to her friend and colleague, who told a personal story of growing up in New Jersey as a young Jewish girl, being told to collect donations for causes that funded tree planting in Israel and feeling responsible for the loss of lives after being informed on the history of the State of Israel. The microphone was passed to various students and faculty members who had prepared speeches entailing their experiences and calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine.
Throughout the speeches, a few were able to form a volunteer group, with students and community members offering to be involved in gathering press, spreading awareness, helping with city council matters and more. Jamilla ended the vigil with chants for peace in Palestine as classes were being let out at 1 p.m.
Students and community members alike attended the vigil. Kiara Farias, a Critical Race and Gender Sexualities (CRGS) major, attended the vigil to become more educated on what’s happening in Gaza and the West Bank and to show their support for Palestinians.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Farias said. “[I am] forever and always going to be against genocide and going to [support] liberation for those like Palestinian people.”
Michael Steeleman, also a CRGS major, attended the vigil for the same reasons as Farais.
“I come from a population who was forcibly removed from their land and is still continuing to deal with that trauma,” Steeleman said. “I think it’s ridiculous to still view that and have that happen in the present day.”
Steeleman and Farias both believe that through unity, petitions, protest and creating opportunities to show community support, vital steps can be taken to make a difference individually and collectively.
One of the students who volunteered to help with organizing future vigils and protests is Margarita Fedorova.
“I’m here because I feel pain – I heard the cries of Palestinians in Gaza, for people to draw awareness and support,” Fedorova said. “I’m Ukrainian, and we have a lot more in common than people may think. As long as we keep talking about it, things can get better.”
Jamilla, the organizer of this vigil, has been taking several initiatives to educate the community on what is happening, such as the history of resistance through embroidery.
“The level of violence that we are seeing happen right now is just the most horrific, egregious thing I’ve seen broadcast on TV,” Jamilla said. “I’m grieving. I have family and friends in Gaza that have lost their homes at this point. This is the least I can do to be speaking out against that, and organizing a collective response to end this horrible violence.”
Jamilla believes that the university needs to have a stronger stance in response to what is happening to Palestinians.
“A neutral stance on this is unacceptable. The university really should be… acknowledging the level of violence of what this actually is, and not just taking a neutral stance because they’re worried about creating riffs or waves,” Jamilla said. “It’s about being against genocide, and our voices matter in bringing an end to that.”