“Speechless. Ignored. Sad.”
“Hurt. Frustrated. Helpless.”
“Enraged. Confused. Disappointed.”
When asked to describe their feelings on the grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in three words, USC students spoke with a common voice.
With candles in hand, students circled the Maxcy monument at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night to say a prayer and hold a moment of silence honoring Michael Brown and other young men who have lost their lives under similar circumstances.
USC’s chapter of the NAACP called for a gathering after the national announcement. The number of students grew as minutes passed, eventually leading to a group of around 50.
“Father God, let us have peace,” said Jaquon Irby, third-year Political Science student and USC-NAACP president, during his statement starting off the ceremony.
After singing “Lean On Me,” attendees gave their three word reactions to the grand jury's ruling, followed by a chant of “creator God, help us” from the crowd.
“It makes it seem like his life doesn’t matter — or any of our lives, black or white,” said Brittany Martin, third-year Hospitality student. “At the end of the day, a young person died.”
Bobby Donaldson, associate professor of History and African American Studies at USC, spoke to the crowd, encouraging students to walk away aware but peaceful.
“Instead of bowing our heads, let us hold our heads high,” Donaldson said. “Today, we have every reason to be disappointed in our nation … At the same time, we have every reason to fight the good fight.”
With protests breaking out in Ferguson, New York and other cites across the country, USC's demonstration stands as part of a greater movement. Accordingly, the gathered students resolved to see the movement through.
“I’m deeply saddened by what our justice system has done, but I know that God is still watching over all of us,” Irby said. “This will awaken students of this generation so that we can join together and realize that the fight is not over.”
Standing hand-in-hand, students listened to the words of others and peacefully reflected on the events. As the event began to wrap up, the participants exchanged handshakes and hugs. The mood was supportive, but that doesn't mean every student left feeling something had been resolved.
“Sometimes when a life is lost, it is portrayed in a way in that the black life is not equal to the white life,” said Ashton Peterson, third-year biology student. “I don’t know how to get restitution on such an issue.”
Just like the diverse group of peers participating in the demonstration, Peterson viewed the indictment decision as part of a greater racial issue in America.
“I think when we have people who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone and witness something that they’re not used to, it really starts to show people that this affects [them] deeply,“ Peterson said.
Donaldson wrapped up the demonstration by leaving the students with a few words of wisdom.
"Leave this place tonight bitter, but determined," he said. "Keep your mind set on peace, but at the same time, keep your mind set on the enduring struggle that we face in this nation."