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Candlelight Vigil, Peaceful Protest to Be Held on Square This Saturday, July 16

Picture used by Facebook.com event page: Candlelight Vigil and Peaceful Protest
Picture used by Facebook.com event page: Candlelight Vigil and Peaceful Protest

Several protests have broken out in the United States due to recent shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Dozens of people have been arrested during these protests as well. In spite of some of the protest turning violent, people have begun to pray that this national conflict will soon come to an end.

Several individuals and community leaders in Oxford have decided to come together this Saturday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the Square for a candlelight vigil in honor of the Castile, Sterling and the officers slain in Dallas, Texas.

Rachel Johnson and Latoya Faulk created the event via Facebook. Roughly 900 people were invited to the candlelight vigil, and as of now, over 300 people will be in attendance on Saturday, and the number is steadily growing.

Johnson and Faulk are both good colleagues and great friends. The two of them were pained so much by the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, that they felt some sort of peace was necessary. For the most part, the idea to bring the Oxford community together was originally Latoya Faulk’s.

“I thought that was a great idea, and I hoped that, no matter how small it ended up being, the event would foster action and understanding in our community, Mississippi, the surrounding areas and the South,” said Johnson.

“Rachel’s right. I knew she’d planned a similar event in Tupelo after the Orlando shooting, and I wanted her help and support,” said Faulk.

Extraordinary things are expected to take place at the event. This event isn’t just about different races coming together for the greater, but more so a community coming together in peace and harmony.

Johnson said, “I hope the event combats feelings of isolation among folks in the community who may be frustrated, sad, or numb after the events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas as well as the other seemingly endless incidences of violence we’ve experienced in the last couple of months (and) years.”

International jazz and blues singer and Oxford native, Effie Burt, has assisted in planning the candlelight vigil by obtaining permission from the city government for the peaceful gathering. However, the singer has a job: accessing the microphones so she could sing.

Most of the songs that she will be singing will be to unify the community.

“Oxford doesn’t have situations like Baton Rouge and Minnesota,” said Burt. “People from all walks of life are expected to come, to unify the community, so that any and everyone can be on one accord. The city and the mayor are all being very supportive and helpful with getting things together.”

The schedule for the candlelight vigil is as follows:

7:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Attendees will meet in fellowship to connect with one another.
7:15 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. – LaToya Faulk and Rachel Johnson both welcome the attendees.
7:20 p.m. to 7:30 p.m – Pastor Christopher Diggs of Burns United Methodist Church will begin the vigil with an opening prayer.
7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Effie Burt will sing. University of Mississipi director of the MFA program in creative writing and author of ROPES Derrick Harriell will read as well as poet and recent MFA graduate Virginia Henry.
8:30 p.m. – Candlelight vigil as the names of slain victims are read out with their short biographies.
8:45 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. – LaToya Faulk and Rachel Johnson will provide closing remarks.
8:50 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Minister Gail Stratton of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford will lead the closing prayer.

Faulk and Johnson would like to remind people who choose to participate in the event will acknowledge and consent to the peaceful demonstration. Faulk posted on the Facebook event page: “We kindly ask that there be no hate speech, or any form of speech that encourages violence. We are in this together.”

Rykia Bernard is a senior broadcast journalism major at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at rmbernar@go.olemiss.edu.

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