Breonna Taylor Vigil: ‘Until Black women are free we are not free’

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Students and members of the UConn community gathered for a vigil dedicated to Breonna Taylor on Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. on the Student Union Lawn. The vigil included several speakers commemorating Taylor, who discussed the need to empower Black women and stop injustice in our society.  

“We feel like in this particular case with Breonna Taylor, her death has been so politicized and there hasn’t been a time for Black people to actually grieve,” Michael Christy, a third-semester political science major and the executive director of activist group PowerUp UConn, who helped organize the vigil, said. “So we want to give that space and opportunity here at UConn for all students to grieve the loss of Breonna Taylor and all Black women who have been killed by police brutality, domestic abuse, domestic violence, etc.”  

Power Up Manchester founder Keren Prescott spoke out about the need for action against racism, especially in the younger generation.  

“Because if I have 500 Black people out here screaming Black Lives Matter, what good does that do? Silence is violence. White silence is violence,” Prescott said. “Do we want another Breonna Taylor? Hell no, but will we continue to have George Floyds and Breonna Taylors if we don’t move past the pain and put the pain into action? Yes, we will.”  

Prescott ended her speech with a call to action for Black women empowerment.  

“To my Black men, protect Black women,” Prescott said. “From the foundation it is women, Black women that have given birth to everything that has life to everything that has breath. Without us, there is nothing and won’t be anything. If you are not gonna do anything else, protect Black women.” 

Protesters gather during the “State of Emergency” rally calling for justice in Breonna Taylor’s shooting, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in New York. Photo by Wong Maye-E via AP Photo.

President of UConn Collaborative Organizing Brittany Diaz also helped organize the vigil and spoke about remembering Taylor’s life not as how she died but to also recognize her life story. According to her speech, Taylor was a paramedic that wanted to return to school to get her nursing degree. Diaz emphasized that Taylor was loving and dedicated her life to helping people. The vigil was later opened for the audience to speak about their thoughts. 

Damani Douglas, a fifth-semester political science and communication major, spoke at the vigil about how some criminals still get to walk free and how that goes against the purpose of a criminal justice system. 

“I think the people who wrote the criminal justice code and penal code put together did not have the same thing in mind,” Douglas said. “I think what they had in mind is to keep themselves safe and their children with the same privileges they enjoyed. I think about members of the grand jury and facts and definitions they were given and the one-sided story they were told. And I ask how could we have a different result when we set up a system to protect some and ignore the rights of others? How can we be outraged? The system worked exactly as intended. It works to keep those who have what they have to keep those things and it leaves the rest of us behind.”  

“I came to this event because there’s this era of heaviness that surrounds being a Black woman,” Angelica Sistrunk, a seventh-semester linguistics and psychology major, said. “I wanted to come and honor Breonna any way I could and listen to people who have made it their life’s mission to uplift and amplify other voices.” 

“The events over the summer with the murder of both Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, all happened when we couldn’t be together,” Douglas said. “So this was my first opportunity to get together with other people and process and experience and listen to see how my peers are feeling. I enjoyed it. I ended up speaking. I didn’t expect to but I felt like I had to. It’s my own processing of the event.” 

“We gather here today to mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, to take a step back to grieve but to keep moving forward to allow ourselves to be human and come together to celebrate her life to grieve and allow ourselves to continue fighting for her justice and all injustices towards Black women and Black people and all people who are victims of police violence, until Black women are free we are not free,” Diaz said.   

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