More than 115 students and community members gathered at a vigil Wednesday night on Sproul Plaza, the steps illuminated with candles in remembrance of three young men who were killed last week in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Some held candles as vigil attendees huddled close and listened to speakers talk about the lives of Adam Mekki, 20, Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, and Muhannad Tairab, 17, as well as the growing anti-Muslim and anti-black sentiment across the country. Tairab and Omar were Muslim, and Mekki was Christian.
“My heart skipped a beat a little,” said campus junior Ridwan Mohamednur when he heard about the shooting of three men. “I was with my cousins at the time, and we’re all at the same age.”
Hosted by the campus Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association and Mills College Muslim Student Alliance, an open mic period allowed attendees to share stories both as a form of healing and as a way of standing in solidarity with those affected by the killings in Fort Wayne.
“I was like, ‘Oh no,’ not again,” said campus sophomore and member of BSU and MSA Zaynab AbdulQadir after receiving news of the murders. “Getting killed for your skin color and getting killed for your faith is really scary. It’s really hard to focus on your studies when living in a world that constantly devalues who you are.”
Despite stormy clouds and the threat of torrential rain, the vigil swelled over the course of the night, as students discussed their experiences with islamophobia, violence and living as black and Muslim citizens in the United States.
At dusk, Mohamednur led a prayer, reading verses from the Quran. Bilal Ansari, director of student life at Zaytuna College — a Muslim liberal arts college — in Berkeley, also led a singing of “This Little Light of Mine,” which attendees were invited to join in honor of Mekki, who was Christian.
Mohamednur also said that Muslim and Black individuals are often the groups most subjected to hate and violence in the United States.
“We saw it at Chapel Hill, we saw it at a Sikh Temple, we saw it (with) the stabbing of a taxi driver in New York,” said campus lecturer of Arabic Hatem Bazian. “There is violence towards people who are Muslim.”
Police found the bodies of the three men shot multiple times Feb. 24, which police later described as “execution-style” murders. While police stated they have no reason to believe the killings were hate-crimes, a motive for the murders has yet to be identified. Some at the vigil expressed frustration that the shooting has garnered limited media coverage.
The vigil comes a little more than a year after a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill left three Muslim students dead. About 200 students attended a vigil last year to honor the victims of the shooting.
“I think it’s really important to see the humanity in others,” said former communications director of Afrikan Black Coalition Rasheed Shabazz, who acted as emcee during the vigil. “We shouldn’t just recognize the humanity of those we are like.”