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 GreatLawn yesterday for a rally that called for peace, unity and spiritualityamong the students of the university.
The rally came in the wake of the shooting of football player CoryMitchell. Mitchell was shot after an altercation near the traffic circleoutside 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 theincident, ‘What are the students doing about this?’ So I rallied everyone of the students leaders to figure out how we were going to put thisday together and start a healing process that would bring peopletogether, so that way the campus would grow.” Alcinay added, “It wasalso to honor Cory. He is a friend of mine. He is a friend of manypeople here. To send a sign of encouragement to him that we’re here andwe care and he is not forgotten.”
Voices of Victory gospel choir opened the event, followed by seniorKareem Vessup, who called for students to take advantage of a tragicsituation and come together.
“Let’s not look at Cory Mitchell’s situation as something to be sorryand regret, though it is regrettable,” Vessup said. “But the greatertribute to Cory Mitchell and his family is to take this unfortunateincident and allow it to be the tie that binds us together. This day wehave 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 totheir problems.
“We are at a place, at St. John’s University, that we can set thestandard,” he said. “When a fist clenches up, the response is to openthe fist and the arms to embrace. I know it is not popular, but it isright.”
The Rev. Diamond Brown, Mitchell’s pastor, quoted scripture and calledfor 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 heremight have known him but walked away and needed to make a run back hometoday.”
“Personally, it was very moving,” said freshman LaTasha Peters. “Forpeople 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; BradGriffith, president of Haraya; and football players Hakeem Gaines andDurron 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 ofbringing people together with such a positive message. All the studentswho spoke today really inspired me…It just was such a good, upliftingexperience to all involved and who attended this event. It waswonderful.”
After the event, the Peace Rally Committee sold white ribbons and tookdonations. All of the proceeds from the ribbon sale will go to helpsupport Cory Mitchell’s family in paying for his medical expenses.Alcinay was pleased with the turnout “Even if we had just one personhere, as long as we just touched that one person, would have been justfine,” he said. “But the fact that there were 150 to 200 people here wasphenomenal. The campus is not what we thought it was. It is a campuswhere we can express ourselves and be respected for it. It is a campuswhere we can heal.”