St. John’s rallies for peace, healing

The first day of spring brought forth a sense of rebirth to the St.
John’s community.

More than 200 students, faculty and administrators gathered on the Great
Lawn yesterday for a rally that called for peace, unity and spirituality
among the students of the university.

The rally came in the wake of the shooting of football player Cory
Mitchell. Mitchell was shot after an altercation near the traffic circle
outside of the residence halls in the early hours of March 11.

“Originally, the inspiration came from a mentor of mine,” said senior,
Yaveh Alcinay, rally organizer. “He asked me two days after the
incident, ‘What are the students doing about this?’ So I rallied every
one of the students leaders to figure out how we were going to put this
day together and start a healing process that would bring people
together, so that way the campus would grow.” Alcinay added, “It was
also to honor Cory. He is a friend of mine. He is a friend of many
people here. To send a sign of encouragement to him that we’re here and
we care and he is not forgotten.”

Voices of Victory gospel choir opened the event, followed by senior
Kareem Vessup, who called for students to take advantage of a tragic
situation and come together.

“Let’s not look at Cory Mitchell’s situation as something to be sorry
and regret, though it is regrettable,” Vessup said. “But the greater
tribute to Cory Mitchell and his family is to take this unfortunate
incident and allow it to be the tie that binds us together. This day we
have come to celebrate our unity and our harmony here at St. John’s.”

Vessup added that students must not look to violence as an answer to
their problems.

“We are at a place, at St. John’s University, that we can set the
standard,” he said. “When a fist clenches up, the response is to open
the fist and the arms to embrace. I know it is not popular, but it is
right.”

The Rev. Diamond Brown, Mitchell’s pastor, quoted scripture and called
for students to go back to God. He began to lay hands on those who were
“born again” and inspired by his preaching.

“Somebody here might want to know this Jesus,” he said. “Somebody here
might have known him but walked away and needed to make a run back home
today.”

“Personally, it was very moving,” said freshman LaTasha Peters. “For
people to come out and be saved, the rebirth is a very positive thing.
It’s a dedication, you know, just to inspire [Cory]. He will walk again.”

Other speakers included Student Government president Lisa Wong; Brad
Griffith, president of Haraya; and football players Hakeem Gaines and
Durron Newman, both close friends of Mitchell.

“I think this event was a great university event,” said Paula Magliore,
Campus Minister. “I think everyone involved did such a wonderful job of
bringing people together with such a positive message. All the students
who spoke today really inspired me…It just was such a good, uplifting
experience to all involved and who attended this event. It was
wonderful.”

After the event, the Peace Rally Committee sold white ribbons and took
donations. All of the proceeds from the ribbon sale will go to help
support Cory Mitchell’s family in paying for his medical expenses.
Alcinay was pleased with the turnout “Even if we had just one person
here, as long as we just touched that one person, would have been just
fine,” he said. “But the fact that there were 150 to 200 people here was
phenomenal. The campus is not what we thought it was. It is a campus
where we can express ourselves and be respected for it. It is a campus
where we can heal.”