June 10, 2020
The University of North Florida hosted “Be the Change: A Virtual Candlelight Vigil for Racial Justice” on June 10 to honor the memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and all other victims of racial injustice. The virtual vigil was live streamed on UNF’s Facebook page and can be viewed on UNF’s YouTube page.
After watching the senseless murder of George Floyd and a lamentable list of black lives unjustly taken and seeing the country unite in righteous protests, many members of the UNF community felt the need to honor the lives lost and commit to be part of the change. OneJax and the UNF Interfaith Center took the lead in planning the vigil and the UNF administration rallied together in support.
The event opened with the reflective prompt, “What is your heartbreak and hope in this moment?” Students, faculty and staff came together from all parts of the University and joined alumni including Florida House Representative Tracie Davis to share their voices during the vigil.
During the personal reflections, candles were lit to honor the lives of Floyd, Taylor, Arbery and the countless others who have fallen victim to racial injustice. A moment of reflection was led by Matt Hartley, Interfaith Center associate director, followed by 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence.
After the reflections, University representatives from the Department of Diversity Initiatives, LGBT Resource Center, Student Government, Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, Community Alliance for Student Success, African American Faculty and Staff Association, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, OneJax, and the Interfaith Center spoke to share their calls for action and hopes for unity as well as the resources and services available at UNF to help educate and support students, faculty, and staff.
President David Szymanski spoke to reaffirm the University’s commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all. He announced the appointment of alumna Whitney Meyer to the newly created vice president of diversity and inclusion position as well as anti-racism training for new students, faculty and staff as just two of the first steps in UNF’s commitment to support campus diversity initiatives.
The vigil concluded with a breathing ritual as a form of calming meditation with the mantra, “Breathe together and be the change.”