Approximately 30 students with burning candles in hand gathered on the Diag last night to commemorate the victims of urban-youth brutality.

The vigil, organized by the Black Student Union, was prompted by the death of Derrion Albert — an African-American 16-year-old who was beaten to death on Chicago’s South Side on Sept. 24, just blocks from his high school.

Four teenagers have been arrested for the honor student’s murder, which garnered national attention because of a bystander’s videotape that made its way onto televisions and computer screens across the country.

“I think the purpose of the event was to give honor to a young man who tragically lost his life in a very violent act that had nothing to do with him,” Music, Theatre & Dance junior Logan McClendon said. “He was truly just a victim of his environment.”

LSA sophomore Constance-Marie James, programming co-chair of the Black Student Union, said the purpose of the vigil was to spread overall awareness of urban-youth violence.

“We want to commemorate Derrion Albert and all of the other Black slain youth from urban cities,” she said. “We also want to show to the mass that their lives have not been lost in vain and we want to hopefully instill in the mass — and everyone who attends the vigil — a sense of activism and awareness again because we really feel that students at the University have a strong sense of apathy.”

James also said the candlelight vigil was just the beginning of what the Black Student Union hopes to accomplish.

“We want to commemorate, but we also want to instill a movement,” James said.

The ceremony opened with the singing of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” — the Black National Anthem — and then acknowledged the death of many individuals lost to urban violence by reading their names aloud.

Members of the Michigan Gospel Chorale sang in memory of all the victims and the treasurer of the Black Student Union, Kortni Malone, recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Million Man March.”

Brittney Williams, the group’s community outreach chair, sang “Amazing Grace” before Walter Lacy, a Kinesiology student currently taking time off, recited another poem that was dedicated to two boys lost to inner-city violence.

Finally, the floor was opened for participants to give remarks about urban-youth brutality.

One student spoke specifically about African Americans at the University of Michigan. He said these lucky few must understand they are the exception in the African-American community, and the ultimate hope is that this exception will become the rule.

Most of those who spoke up at the event agreed that the African-American community must open itself up to change and lead others by example.

McClendon said this shift can and will occur.

“I really do feel that change takes place within oneself and then from there it gets contagious,” he said. “I’ve been affected by change. Inspirational instructors I’ve had changed my paradigm, changed my approach, changed my outlook.”

“Just as they have that power to change and affect me, I have that same power to affect and change someone else,” he continued. “I can guarantee that a change is going to take place because it is going to take place within me.”

Kinesiology junior Darren Craddieth agreed, saying that the African-American community will evolve.

“A lot of our youth feel like they have no help and they have no way out, so we just have to be that way out for them and let them know anything is possible for them,” he said. “We have fought for all of our lives, coming from slavery to now, so we just have to be that difference.”

LSA senior Crystal Irving said it is the responsibility of African-American students at the University to lead others in the right direction.

“There is already enough sadness and depression in the world, there is just no more room for any kind of situation like this,” she said. “It is definitely our job to step in and intervene.”

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