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225 balloons released during Black Angels Memorial

At+least+225+balloons+were+released+the+evening+of+Oct.+18+in+honor+of+those+who+have+died+from+law+enforcment.+Photo+by+Yue+Yin%2Fyue.yin%40marquette.edu
At least 225 balloons were released the evening of Oct. 18 in honor of those who have died from law enforcment. Photo by Yue Yin/yue.yin@marquette.edu

At least 225 balloons were released the evening of Oct. 18 in honor of those who have died from law enforcment. Photo by Yue Yin/yue.yin@marquette.edu

At least 225 balloons were released the evening of Oct. 18 in honor of those who have died from law enforcment. Photo by Yue Yin/yue.yin@marquette.edu

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As the sun set on the evening of Oct. 18, approximately 225 balloons were released over Westowne Square to commemorate black men and women who lost their lives due to law enforcement this year.

Approximately 150 people gathered for the Black Angel Memorial, organized by Marquette’s Black Student Council, the Marquette National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Marquette University Gospel Choir.

“We’ve asked for the university to take actions and make a statement about what is happening to our community because this is traumatizing to us and it makes us uncomfortable,” Akila Coleman, BSC social event chair coordinator and junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. “So what we wanted to do is get a message out and it was like, ‘How can we get that message out peacefully?’”

University President Michael Lovell attended the memorial and said the event was a great way for the Marquette community to come together.

“I was here to help provide my support for those in our community that are facing difficulties right now,” Lovell said. “I want them to know that certainly we want them to feel like they have a family here at Marquette to help them through some of these difficult times.”

Participants received a black balloon on a red string, symbolizing the color of skin and blood shed, Coleman said. 

Each balloon corresponded with a name and age of a black man or woman killed by law enforcement this year. As a microphone was passed around the circle, participants read the name and age while releasing the balloon.

“(I’m here to) pay homage to those who were unlawfully killed by the police and just making sure that they are recognized and that their names are said,” Juwana Kujjo, a junior in the College of Communication, said.

Participants stood in silence following the balloon release, soon linkin arms until the circle was connected.

Coleman said the large turnout was unexpected.

“To see people from campus ministry here, our president, people who sit on the highest floor of Zilber Hall, for them to be here tonight on a Tuesday night at 6 p.m., midterm week, to see that many people was just an awesome feeling,” she said.

Nick Jenkins, counselor and coordinator of mental health advocacy, said he talks to students some who said they feel marginalized or like their voices are not heard.

“It’s the unrest in Milwaukee, but it’s also just on a much larger scale in terms of what’s happening,” Jenkins said. “In some ways I think that this does connect the Marquette community to the outer community and that’s helpful and powerful.”

During the service, the Marquette University Gospel Choir performed two songs, “Overcome” by Tye Tribbett and “Better is One Day” by Trey McLaughlin.

At the end of the service, participants were asked to share thoughts and emotions. Several people came forward and shared personal experiences and challenged participants to speak out against violence and hatred.

One of the participants who spoke was Brianna Hawkins, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and member of the BSC.

“I think nothing has happened this year so far to commemorate all of the black lives, all the people that were killed this summer and in the past few months at the cause of police brutality,” Hawkins said. “If the university isn’t going to do anything, then as students we are going to stand together and do something for our community and for each other.”

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