CW: mentions of gun violence
On Feb. 14, Wellesley students hosted the Love, Not Guns event, a vigil to honor the lives that have been lost to gun violence in the United States and to mark the passing of five years since the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Gathered on Chapel Green, students lit candles and held moments of silence in honor of lives lost. Following moments of silence, student speakers discussed the importance of remembering these lives, the continuing impacts of gun violence and the need for action to end gun violence.
Lillie Stewart ’26, co-leader of the event, explained, “We were specifically interested in holding a vigil because the thing that’s been communicated from families of Parkland victims is that the day of the 14th is still really a day of mourning and appreciation for the lives of their family members, and so, we really wanted to respect that and kind of bring that perspective into our advocacy for the reduction of gun violence.”
Stewart and Sidney Briggs ’26 collaborated to lead and plan the event, supported by their co-host Wellesley for the Abolition of Militarism and Incarceration (WAMI). Stewart and Briggs recognized Hannah Grimmett ’25 and Liz Huang ’24, who spoke at the Love, Not Guns event, for their support in creating the event.
Both Stewart and Briggs have participated in community organizing to end gun violence in their home states of Oregon and North Carolina, respectively, and both were motivated to mark Feb. 14 as a day of mourning and remembrance. They hope that vigils on this date will continue to occur on campus in coming years.
“One of the goals here is to bring a continued awareness to this day of mourning and, as the years wear on … I think we definitely see this as an opportunity to bring that awareness back to the Wellesley community,” Stewart said.
During the vigil, a group of students formed a circle on the Green and, lighting electric tea lights, held a moment of silence. Stewart described the silence as “a moment of reflection and holding space for elective grief and remembrance.”
Stewart reflected on holding the vigil, “It opens the conversation, and … it’s not trying to have the whole conversation all at once. It’s just putting the space out there.”
Following this moment of silence, Briggs spoke about the importance of remembrance, as well as communities’ work to end gun violence. She described the speech as “ … talking about how … much we’ve been impacted by [gun violence] as a generation, as students, and also the importance of remembering those who have been lost and the importance of working in the moments to come.” She also noted that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is named after a Wellesley alum, an activist and conservationist, who graduated with the class of 1912.
“In a lot of ways, we have a responsibility as a Wellesley community to remember the violence going on …,” said Stewart. Later, she added, “It was powerful to observe the connection that each of us [has] with gun violence. … I think it really has touched everybody in one way or another, and remembering that that’s the case really motivates me to change that for the future.”
Briggs’s speech addressed the ongoing pervasiveness of gun violence, which continues to cause trauma and end lives. In one recent instance of this violence, on Feb. 13, according to recent reporting, three students were killed and five more were injured in a mass shooting at Michigan State University. Briggs explained that the news of this tragedy broke while she was working on her speech for the vigil the following day, the anniversary of the Parkland shooting.
Speaking of the Love, Not Guns event, Briggs said, “It really made me realize that we’ve all been impacted by the epidemic of gun violence in some way, and there’s a way to foster a community both in grief and in hope that we won’t have to mourn more lives.”
The Love, Not Guns vigil ended with another moment of silence, during which students laid their candles in the center of their circle in honor of the lives lost to gun violence.