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'It hurt in our heart’: Morgan State students hold vigil honoring life of Breonna Taylor, call for end to racial injustice

Danaysha Samuel, left, and Demara Ellis sit and light candles during a vigil for Breonna Taylor at Morgan State University on Wednesday night. Sept. 30, 2020
Danaysha Samuel, left, and Demara Ellis sit and light candles during a vigil for Breonna Taylor at Morgan State University on Wednesday night. Sept. 30, 2020 (Phillip Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Following a string of passionate nationwide civil rights protests and demonstrations throughout the country and in Baltimore City, Morgan State University students gathered Wednesday for a somber moment to honor the life of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed in March by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers during a raid of her apartment.

Nearly 40 people assembled at the Murphy Fine Arts Center Outdoor Amphitheatre, with many of them expressing an increased need to address race in America. Candles were passed out to each student who attended.

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Jocelyn Daniels, a Baltimore native and a 20-year-old student at Morgan State who was an organizer, said the event provided a haven for students at the predominantly black college who have been kept from convening because of social distancing requirements enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We haven’t had a chance to really come together and honor all of the stuff that was going on right now. I think the verdict last week [in which officers were not prosecuted in her death] hit a lot of people hard. It hurt in our heart. Breonna Taylor was someone just like us and looked just like us,” Daniels said.

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“I wanted to make a space for Morgan State students to come acknowledge that.”

The gathering was one of several over the past several months in Baltimore City involving civil rights, but one of few on a campus.

In June, hundreds of students gathered on Morgan State’s campus and marched throughout the streets of surrounding neighborhoods protesting the deaths of Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

Morgan State students gathered at the Murphy Fine Arts Center on Wednesday for a vigil honoring the life of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police in March.
Morgan State students gathered at the Murphy Fine Arts Center on Wednesday for a vigil honoring the life of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police in March. (Phillip Jackson)

Baltimore City Councilman and mayoral candidate Brandon Scott, who has attended other demonstrations this year, spoke to students during Wednesday’s vigil. Scott referenced the importance of young people becoming involved in political change and said such action dates to the early days of the civil rights movement.

“When you talk about movements and the world and the history of this country, they always revolve around the involvement of young people,” Scott said.

“So know that what you are doing here today and what young people are doing across the country will not be ignored because change does not happen without young people.”

Rashashim Gafney, a 19-year-old sophomore at the school, sees that as a top priority for the school right now. Gafney, who spoke publicly for the first time during Wednesday’s event, had also attended this year’s March on Washington.

Gafney says he is inspired now as a college student to seek change as demonstrations continue throughout the country.

“For me, it is a very humbling experience but an honor,” Gafney says.

“Growing up, I have always had it embedded in my soul that I felt like if I had something to say and I had the opportunity to speak out, then I have the obligation to myself and my family to do so."

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