News Local/State

Interfaith Vigil In Champaign-Urbana To Provide Space For Grieving, Inspire Action Against Gun Violence


The Interfaith Vigil of Remembrance will take place at 3 pm on Sunday, September 15, 2019, at the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign. Randolph Street Community Garden Facebook page

A gathering this weekend in Champaign will bring together people from various faith communities and organizations to grieve for those who have died from gun violence.

The Interfaith Vigil of Remembrance begins at 3 pm Sunday at the Randolph Street Community Garden at 1002 N. Randolph St. in Champaign. It will be led by local clergy, in coordination with the CU chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that advocates for stricter gun laws. 

Every year, people from the community gather around a cherry tree planted at the Randolph Street Community Garden in honor of Kiwane Carrington, who was shot and killed at the age of 15, and share their memories of him, according to Reverend Dawn Blackman from Champaign Church of the Brethren.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dawn Blackman

Organizers are asking churches with bells to ring them 35 times—once for each person killed by gun violence in Champaign-Urbana in the last five years.

Reverend Dawn Blackman from Champaign Church of the Brethren said the vigil is important to bring the issue out into the open and promote healing.

“When a person dies, you don’t just lose them. You lose all of their contributions,” Blackman said. “It leaves a hole in the community when someone is lost like that. And until we repair that hole, we’re just not whole.”

It’s significant that the vigil will take place at the community garden, near a cherry tree that was planted to honor Kiwane Carrington, who was 15 when he was shot and killed by a Champaign Police Officer in 2009, Blackman said. He was unarmed.

The following year, Blackman said a march in Carrington’s honor brought together several hundred people, and ended at the Randolph Street Community Garden.

Blackman said she hopes the vigil will allow a space for grieving for Kiwane and the many others who’ve lost their lives too soon— and also prompt action.

“It’s all good and well to have a nice feel-good moment after an incident and then wait for the next one and have another feel-good moment,” Blackman said. “But if there isn’t work done, we’re always keep having these shootings and incidents going on, and that’s not the way we want to raise our children.”

Other organizers for the event include the Ministerial Alliance, the Interfaith Alliance, First Presbyterian of Urbana, Wesley United Methodist Church, Hillel, the Champaign County Community Coalition, Sisters in Faith Leadership, CU Peace and Resiliency Champions, Safety Through Solidarity: Building a Hate-Free Community, Bend the Arc and CU Neighborhood Champions.

Reverend Florence Caplow from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Champaign said she feels it’s vitally important that faith communities “show up as a moral, unified voice, and that we make spaces for people to grieve and find hope.”

“I find that so many in my own faith community are filled with despair about the shootings: both the mass shootings that target vulnerable populations and the losses here in our cities,” Caplow said in an email. “We want to create a space for grief, for hope, and for action.”

Diane Ore, chair of Bend the Arc: CU, said she is particularly concerned about mass shootings in places of worship.

“They happen all too often, when people are gathered together to find peace, solace and joy in their respective faith traditions,” Ore said in an email. “We cannot be silent in the wake of gun violence. We must join together to let our communities know that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us.”

Ore said she hopes that uniting people across the community will send the message that mass shootings will not be accepted as normal here.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman