BSU holds vigil for victims of Katrina
February 11, 2008 8:24 PM
BSU gathers to remember Katrina victims
Black Panther Cub Fred Hampton Jr. stood in front of large red signs reading “Did you forget?” and “Refugee or Survivor?,” as he spoke on stage at Malcolm X Plaza during a Hurricane Katrina memorial Monday afternoon.
“We’d like to give credit where credit is due. We recognize that it was the American government who was responsible for the thousands upon thousands of casualties that we had and continue to have down in New Orleans,” said Hampton, who is part of the International Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. “To what the state refers as to Hurricane Katrina, we refer to as Hurricane America.”
The memorial is part of a series of events sponsored by the Black Student Union, commemorating Black History Month at SF State.
Dr. Kevin Washington, a professor of Africana Studies at SF State who attended the memorial, said it was important.
“It is a portion of black history that speaks to the disenfranchisement of black people in the United States,” said Washington, who is originally from Louisiana but was teaching at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia when the storm hit in 2005.
Washington first came to SF State in fall 2007, and said he returned to Louisiana to help displaced family members about six months after the hurricane happened. He added that the government did not respond to residents quickly enough after the disaster.
“After the levees broke, black people did not receive adequate assistance until five days later, while the United States was able to give aid to tsunami victims in Indonesia within 48 hours,” Washington said .
After a moment of silence was held at 12:38 p.m. at Malcolm X Plaza in memory of people who died as a result of Katrina, Coby Obiesie, coordinator for BSU, read a poem called "American Dreams" to the small crowd gathered in front of the Cesar Chavez Student Union.
“We want to remember this part of African history, but we want to be sure that we just don’t just celebrate during this month, but we remember our history year round,” said Obiesie, 20, an accounting major.
Obiesie also created a CD of songs with artists like Mos Def and Papoose, dedicated to people who passed away because of Hurricane Katrina that blasted out of speakers during the event
“It’s not just music about Hurricane Katrina, but music that talks about reality and real situations in life,” said Obiesie.
First year student, Sarah Khodavandi, 18, said she learned more about Hurricane Katrina’s impact at the event.
“It’s totally college-y. It helped me learn about something I didn’t know about,” said Khodavandi.
“It’s always good to see that people care and try through events like this,” said Khodavandi.
Candlelight vigil at Malcolm X Plaza
Thirteen candles, one for each letter of Malcolm X Plaza, surrounded a single candle in the center of the ground in front of the Cesar Chavez Student Center Monday night during a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“Today, we are here in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina, those who passed away and our ancestors who were killed and destroyed,”
Black Student Union coordinator Coby Obiesie, 22, an accounting major said as his face glowed in the light of a candle he held. “We are here to give respect to our ancestors.”
The BSU sponsored the candlelight vigil as part of a series of events commemorating Black History Month at SF State. A Hurricane Katrina Memorial was held earlier in the day.
Kevin Washington, professor of Africana studies at SF State, began the vigil with a prayer.
“We say a prayer for those right now in this space called New Orleans, who are seeking to rebuild,” Washington said toward the end of the prayer. “May they have the strength and courage to continue to do so.”
Brian Gallagher, 25, who is not affiliated with the BSU, said it was important for him to come to the vigil.
“I wanted to show support and solidarity with the Black Student Union for the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Gallagher, a double major in political science and history.
“I want to help my fellow students but don’t want to distract from the fact this is a BSU event,” he said.
Gallagher was also responsible for placing the candles in the circular formation on the ground in front o the plaza.
“Many groups and cultures see the significance and power of a circle,” Gallagher said. “Like the yin and yang, everything in life has a beginning and end.”
Edward Escamilla, a coordinator for La Raza at SF State said it is necessary for groups on campus to come together.
“We have formed great ties with BSU and support their events and wish to help in anyway we can,” Escamilla, 18, said. “All political and cultural groups are facing the same issues, and we can succeed if we rise together.”
Chenel King, 18, spoke to the crowd of about 30 people with candles in their hands during an open forum at the vigil.
“When they cried, I cried with them,” King, a creative arts major, said of the Hurricane Katrina victims. “It’s just a really horrible event that no one seems to care about.”
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