Best Foot Forward: Marchers gather to remember Michael Brown

March participants carried balloons from Pearce-Ford Tower to Chandler Memorial Chapel with the names of victims of violence and altercations with police as part of the Michael Brown memorial march and vigil. Harrison Hill/HERALD

Aaron Mudd

White balloons bearing the names of Trayvon Martin and ‘Mike’ Brown swayed in the breeze, carried by WKU students and faculty as they climbed the Hill chanting “No Violence! More Peace!”

About 75 people gathered in the courtyard of Pearce-Ford Tower and marched up The Hill Tuesday afternoon in response to the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, a black male killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The marchers’ path passed by the Guthrie Bell Tower, Downing Student Union and finally arrived at the Chandler Memorial Chapel for a vigil. 

St. Louis freshman Ariel Miller said she knew Brown through her friends.

“I hung out with him once or twice,” she said. “He was a nice guy.”

After the crowd arrived outside the chapel, Louisville senior Omega Buckner led an impromptu prayer. She said she wants more awareness in the community. 

“I think that’s where it starts,” Buckner said. “It’s just improving ourselves so that we can improve our communities — so that we can improve our state.” 

St. Louis senior Karlos Harbor, a student organizer, wanted to arrange an event after hearing about the shooting. 

“That’s just kind of why we’re here — mobilizing and empowering us as students to get active in our community when we see these injustices happening,” he said. 

The march and vigil were also in honor of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Florida in 2012. 

Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer, marched with the students and said it was important to him to support them. 

Miller commended students for organizing the event because he is personally concerned about human rights violations. 

“It’s about young men of color whose rights are being abridged,” he said. 

The vigil featured a poetry reading, a singing performance and speakers. Lloren Foster, assistant professor of African American Studies, addressed the crowd, urging them to focus on staying safe, despite the injustices they may face. 

“When the police stop you, I don’t care how wrong they are, comply,” he said. “You do me no good dead.”

Foster asked participants to raise their hand if police officers had ever profiled them. Louisville senior William Qualls raised his hand along with other marchers. 

Qualls said he thought he was profiled when he was pulled over based on the questions the officer asked him, such as where he was headed, if he had drugs in the car and if he was a WKU student. Qualls said the encounter was one of many he’s had with police.  

Although Foster encouraged students to comply with the police, he also stressed the importance of education and community involvement to combat injustice. 

“Do you know that the Bowling Green City Commission meets every two weeks, the first and third Tuesday every month?” he asked. “And that you can go in front of the Bowling Green City Commission and say, ‘We’re having a problem.’ And guess what they’ll do. They’ll listen.”

Foster urged students to put their education first and shared a story about his decision to leave college and participate in an anti-apartheid movement in Milwaukee. Foster regretted that decision. 

“I flunked out, and I wondered why I could not affect change,” he said. “So I’m imploring each and every one of you, first and foremost, to graduate. Secondly, read everything you can get your hands on.”

At the end of the vigil, marchers released their balloons into the sky as they spoke the names of loved ones.