Dominican University senior Lauryn Bergert said she’s counted the days that have passed since the Walk of Solidarity.
Last October, she and dozens of other students met on the quad for the event, which commemorated the lives of Black people across the country who have been fatally shot by the police.
Six months after the Walk of Solidarity, Bergert and her fellow Dominican students stood in the same spot, making the same demands to end racism in policing.
“It’s been only 182 days since we held our Walk of Solidarity, that we stood right here in this quad sharing our stories, our pains and our sorrows together,” said Bergert, the president of Dominican’s National Association of Colored Women Club.
Bergert spoke before a crowd of roughly 50 students and faculty gathered on the quad on April 29 for a vigil and march.
The event took place just a week after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
The April 21 verdict happened just days after a Brooklyn Center, Minn. Police Officer Kimberly Potter fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during an attempted arrest after a traffic stop. Potter said she confused her gun for her taser.
Closer to home, people in the Chicago area protested the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot by Chicago Police Officer Eric Stillman on March 29. Video footage shows Toledo with his hands over his head and attempting to surrender when he was fatally shot.
“I’m tired of trying to have to explain why my life matters to people,” said Bergert, who helped co-organize the Dominican demonstration. “I’m tired, but we have to continue. We have to dig deep within ourselves to find that fight in us.”
Through prayer and dance, student activists and attendees sought to pay tribute to the growing list of Black and brown people killed by police.
In a call and response, attendees said, “We love you,” after one student activist called the names of Trayvon Chadwell, Anthony Alvarez, Toledo and many others who have died at the hands of police. The deaths of Chadwell, Alvarez and Toledo – who were gunned down by Chicago police officers – have led to more demands for police reform.
Among those who gathered, many held up signs that read: “Black Trans Lives Matter,” “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “That’s Not a Chip on My Shoulder. That’s My Neck.”
The vigil and march also recognized the recent hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Carlos Benitez, who helped Bergert plan the demonstration, said the “anti-Asian” and “anti-immigrant” aspects of the shootings at three Atlanta-based spas and a FedEx facility in Indianapolis “aren’t being talked about enough.”
Six of the eight victims in the Atlanta shooting were Asian women, and four members of the Sikh community were murdered at the FedEx facility.
For Oak Park and River Forest High School junior Chelsea Zhao, the news about the Atlanta shooting left her “shocked, sad and angry” all at once, and she hoped attending the demonstration would offer some healing.
“It’s really hard to process it on your own,” said Zhao, adding she grieved alongside other Asian students. “Today, it kind of shows me that we are all connected in the same way with the Black and Brown community and that we have to stand together against white supremacy.”
Benitez, a senior at Dominican, said he wanted students of color such as Zhao to know that “we stand with them” and “that we will not let this place ignore that.”
Reflecting on the past year, Benitez and Bergert spoke candidly about the civil unrest that swept the nation last summer and the recent conviction of Chauvin. They believe the fight is not finished, and that the pattern of racial injustice can only be stopped if people stay committed and continue to work together.
“It makes me feel more hopeful that more and more people keep showing up,” Benitez said. “The movement isn’t dying. Even a year later, I try to keep myself from going into a cynical space, thinking like nothing has changed. It has been a year and only a year. Change is incremental and freedom is a constant struggle like Angela Davis says.”