Community Comes Together for Black Lives Matter Vigil in Memorial Park

July 11, 2016
People gathered in Memorial Park Saturday for a vigil in honor of recent deaths nationally.Credit Holly Pretsky / KRCC
People gathered in Memorial Park Saturday for a vigil in honor of recent deaths nationally.

More than 100 Colorado Springs community members gathered together Saturday night in Memorial Park for a vigil following the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers.

As the sun set over Pikes Peak, members of the African American community took turns addressing the crowd from a microphone.

The people gathered together expressed sorrow and frustration. They opened the vigil with names of black people killed by police.

But the much of the vigil focused on the future. 

Alexis Miller, teacher, addresses children in attendance at Saturday's vigil.Credit Json Martin Photography / Used with Permission
Alexis Miller, teacher, addresses children in attendance at Saturday's vigil.

Alexis Miller is a teacher. She sat cross-legged on the grass with the children present, microphone in hand.

"This is for you, ok?" she told them. "Repeat after me: I'm black. I'm unique. There's no one else I'd rather be."

The children repeated each statement.

Miller told the children they would face a system that is dangerous to them, but to take pride in their identities. 

"As we shed tears for lives taken, as we search for words and explanations, our directives to you are to live, and to love always," she said. "Be the revolution we so desperately need."

The vigil was the second in Colorado Springs last week. A smaller one took place in Acacia Park on Thursday night.

Darryl Taylor, one of the organizers of the Memorial Park vigil, said they got the word out on Facebook.

"Instead of just lashing out on social media, we decided to take action," he said. "We came together, we organized, and put the event out for people to come. And now we see that we spread the word a lot."

The vigil was not affiliated with any organized group. Co-organizer, Leandra Bumpas, said she grew up in Colorado Springs. She said she didn't want to have to feel afraid of police, and they shouldn't be afraid of black people either.

"We are not here to promote anti-police. We are far from that," she said. "What we want is open communication and individual people behind a badge held accountable for their individual actions." 

Attendees at Saturday's vigil in Memorial Park listen to speakersCredit Json Martin Photography / Used with Permission
Attendees at Saturday's vigil in Memorial Park listen to speakers

Several speakers also condemned the recent shootings of five police officers in Dallas, saying violence is not the solution. Among them was Lisa Villanueva, president of the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.

"We cannot fight anger with anger, 'cause that never works out," she said.

At the end of the vigil, attendees were asked to form a line by the mic to share their thoughts. Thirteen-year-old Emmanuel Porter Taylor was one of them.

"I don't want to wake up everyday thinking my cousin, my nephew or my dad's gonna die," he said. "And as my dad said, we may be free, but we're not all equal."

Emmanuel's mother, Ivory, stood nearby. She said she worries about her four sons.

"They want to go to college. They want to go to the Air Force. They want to go to the Marines," she said. "But who's to say they're going to get to do that? I have a 13 year old. He could be pulled over, shot, when he gets to the drive-in, just for being the wrong skin color, and I don't think that's right."

She said she's lived in Colorado Springs for 12 years and plans to stay because compared to other places in the country, she thinks this is a safer place to raise her family.

Still, organizers of the vigil said issues of racism are present, and they felt a need to elevate their response in Colorado Springs beyond social media comments.