Members of the Miami University and Oxford community gathered Saturday, April 3 to mourn the deaths of those killed in the Atlanta spa shootings, an action widely regarded as a racially motivated attack against the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The vigil was organized by the Asian American Association (AAA), a student organization that focuses on making Asian American students feel welcome on campus as well as giving others in the community a chance to engage and learn about Asian culture.
Janna Maddox, a sophomore human capital management and leadership major, serves as the secretary of AAA. She explained that the organization was going to have some sort of vigil even before the shootings; the Atlanta tragedy only heightened the need for a vigil.
“We had a member come to us a day after the shooting, and she was distraught and unhappy that Miami wasn’t really saying anything quite yet; at that point she felt very lost,” Maddox said. “Afterward, talking to our members more and the rest of our [executive board] really fueled the need to hold the vigil sooner rather than later.”
The vigil took place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Seal on Miami’s Oxford campus. The geometric center of the university, it has been a location for past vigils held by the Miami community.
“It’s very symbolic,” Maddox said. “By being the center of campus, [the Seal] serves as the heart of campus.”
The vigil opened with a moment of silence for the victims followed by several speeches by students, faculty and staff. The speeches were interspersed with introductions by AAA President Adam Vuth.
Maddox said the turnout was expected to be somewhere between 20 and 50 people, but more than 100 showed up to mourn and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community.
One of the speakers at the vigil was junior Jakin Wu, the former vice president of AAA and a senator in ASG. He lamented that it took a shooting for issues in the AAPI community to get exposure but was grateful for the people that attended the vigil.
“We saw events like this were going to happen based on the past year of anti-Asian rhetoric, so I think it’s a tragedy and a disgrace that we have to have this in the first place,” Wu said. “However, I am glad that we had such an outpour of support for the Miami and Oxford community. I’m glad that we had so many passionate students and community members willing to speak out for these events.”
Wu was also disappointed in the low amount of administrators that showed up to the vigil. Besides a speech from Anthony James, the interim vice president of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, no administrative staff spoke on behalf of the university.
“I thought certain administrators could have had more impactful and more empathetic speechlessness — we’ll leave it at that,” Wu said. “Miami will often tout diversity and inclusion, but in instances like these it would be nice to see more faculty attend.”
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After the scheduled speakers, the floor opened for any students at the vigil to speak their minds on the issue and grieve.
One student who stepped forward was Sara Lu, a senior business economics major who gave an emotional speech mourning the victims and the status of Asian Americans in America. She said the vigil helped her express her grief surrounding the shooting.
“I just didn't know how to mourn after the shooting, so I was so glad that Miami was doing a vigil,” Lu said. “It’s local and my friends could be there to support me; I thought it was an amazing opportunity.”
Lu went on to explain that the vigil gave her a chance to talk about issues involving Asian Americans on campus, something that she felt wasn’t available to her in past years.
“I feel like Asian Americans on this campus are often overlooked; [Miami administrators] often lump us into a group with the international students,” Lu said. “I’ve definitely been discriminated against, so I thought the vigil was an amazing opportunity for us to speak out on those issues and for once to be able to have a voice.”