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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

Hundreds of students gather for vigil honoring Daunte Wright

More than 200 students gathered outside on the McCullough lawn the evening of April 24 to honor the life of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and other victims of police brutality. Huddled under umbrellas and rain jackets, they sheltered their candles from the cold drizzle as they listened to speeches and observed multiple moments of silence in honor of the lives lost.

Jarlenys Mendez ’23 spearheaded the vigil to hold space on campus for students mourning the life of Daunte Wright.

“There’s so little chance we get to stop and pause to show respect and honor for the victims,” Mendez said in an interview with The Campus. “Especially with how fast-paced the school moves, it’s important to take a pause to recognize the real world and not be stuck in the Middlebury bubble.”

Across the country, protesters have poured onto streets to express anger and demand justice for Wright. Mendez was actively involved in protests in New York City for the Black Lives Matter movement, and she was inspired to pursue activism at Middlebury.

Daunte Wright’s funeral was held on April 22, where he was remembered as an outgoing young man and the father of a two-year-old toddler. Mendez, whose own father was 19 years old when she was born, said the event hit close to home for her emotionally.

“Seeing his child was definitely painful,” Mendez said. “And to think that at that age to lose your life and leave your child behind you. I’m just sick of it. Each time I hear about another victim — it’s a lot.”

Genesis Rodriguez ’23, who attended the vigil, said the atmosphere was heavy with the mourning shared between the students. To Rodriguez, it is the responsibility of Middlebury students to acknowledge the events happening in the world.

“We’re in such a privileged space, so it feels necessary to show up for these issues,” Rodriguez said. “These might be conversations I have with my friends, [but], in general they are not talked about on campus.”

Although the number of white students at the vigil outweighed the number of students of color, Mendez hoped that such a reality did not drown out the presence of BIPOC students at the event — who she said needed the space for healing.

“White people tend to make a lot of things about them, and this vigil wasn’t for white people to feel better. It’s not for them to show they’re here for us. It’s never about the white people,” said Mendez, “I hope they can step aside and acknowledge what is happening, internally and physically by being there.”