By Erin Falk, Staff Writer
On May 14th of this 2022, 10 Black citizens were fatally shot in a Buffalo Tops Supermarket. This was done in a purposeful act of violence towards the Black community – something that our country has been experiencing too much of as of late. When hearing of this tragic event, Lilliana Weldeslassie, President of the Black Student Union (BSU), and other E-Board members got straight to work on a tribute for the 10 victims.
When meeting over the summer, BSU attempted to figure out a way to hold this tribute in a timely manner but decided it would be better if the campus community could be together. Therefore, the group planned to wait until the start of the Fall semester, and on Friday, September 16th, students and faculty gathered in front of Kearney Hall in remembrance of the 10 victims.
This tribute featured a speech from Weldeslassie, where she not only paid homage to the lives lost but urged the St. John Fisher community to practice antiracism. She stated that “there are many discussions that must be had on this campus.” Whether it be in BSU meetings, other affinity club meetings, or across the campus as a whole, she made it clear that members of our community need to be talking about how they can be more intentional in their inclusion efforts. Towards the end of her speech, Weldeslassie said, “You have to be kind to ease the pains of reality.” Here, she offered the greatest tip for practicing antiracism: be kind.
Following the conclusion of her speech, Weldeslassie offered the microphone to anyone who needed or wanted to express their emotions on the subject. One of the following speakers was fellow E-board member, Amelai Lherisson. She spoke of her concerns for the Rochester community, “The shooting ended up in Buffalo, but his intentions were originally to come to Rochester, so this inherently affects the Black community in Rochester as well.” At the end of her speech, she prompted all those who attended to “reflect on our day-to-day lives and how this can affect you or your loved ones.”
After everyone had a chance to speak their minds, BSU led attendees in a silent walk to pay respects to those who lost their lives. Leading the walk, the BSU E-board carried ten candle-lit bags that were meant to represent Aaron Salter Jr., Celestine Chaney, Roberta A. Drury, Andre Mackniel, Katherine Massey, Margus D. Morrison, Heyward Patterson, Geraldine Talley, Ruth Whitfield, and Pearl Young – the 10 community members who Weldeslassie described as “people living their lives, doing what they had to do for the day.” she continued, “They didn’t know May 14th would be their last.”
When Weldeslassie was asked what effect she hoped the tribute would have on the Black community at Fisher, she responded:
“That’s honestly easy – that they are seen, they are heard, they are alive, they are human. Just because of the fact that they’re black or brown, that doesn’t determine that they don’t matter … These people’s lives matter.”
Overall, the tribute was a successful first event of the year for BSU. Weldeslassie and other E-board members are hopeful for the upcoming year, and all they hope to accomplish. They want to make BSU a welcoming, safe place “not just for minorities, but for the majority population as well.” Weldeslassie invites the White population at Fisher to join BSU to “learn about Black culture, history, and the injustices happening in this country” so that hate can stop spreading across our campus.
If you are interested in joining Black Student Union, it’s their first meeting of the semester is being held this Thursday, September 22, in Nursing 101 at 7:00 pm.