Community members, gathered for a vigil in response to a noose found on campus, sing “Amazing Grace” led by Rochelle Ellis, lecturer in music.
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‘Lead us from darkness to light,’ said Vineet Chander, coordinator of Hindu Life

A hangman’s noose was found on a construction site on Princeton’s campus, according to messages sent from administrators to students in June. In response, Princeton leaders and community members gathered at Firestone Plaza on June 27 to denounce hate and spread love.

“Those of us assembled here today understand that the manifestation of fear is hate,” said Leslie Summiel, president of the NAACP of Trenton. History has shown us explicit symbols are often used to instill fear, he added.

In a joint message from Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion sent to Princeton students, they offered support and explained what a noose symbolizes. “The symbol of the noose is a deplorable and intolerable insignia of white supremacy,” they wrote. “Nooses have a long history of being used as a prevailing symbol to primarily target, terrorize, and traumatize Black people in America. This recent incident is racialized and violent.” 

An intimate crowd of about 40 community members were spread across the plaza, many in pockets of shade to take cover from the hot afternoon sun. The hum of cicadas droned on in the background as each speaker presented an item. Vineet Chander, coordinator of Hindu Life and Hindu chaplain for the University, presented an oil lamp. It symbolizes illuminating darkness, Chander said. He encouraged the crowd to act as a source of light and love. “Lead us from darkness to light,” he said. Again, and again the message from each speaker was clear: Hate will not be tolerated. 

Vineet Chander, coordinator of Hindu Life and Hindu chaplain for the University, addressed the crowd at a rally on Sunday.
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Following speeches from those representing various organizations who were present in solidarity including members of Princeton University’s Office of Religious Life, the Princeton Friends Meeting (Quakers), the Coalition for Peace Action, and the Nassau Presbyterian Church, community members in attendance were also invited to share their reflections with the crowd. 

Celine Pham ’24 shared examples of systemic racism that she learned about during her past year working with Princeton Mutual Aid while on a gap year from the University due to the pandemic. She said she’s attended a series of protests and vigils this year, including the protest held in solidarity with MOVE police bombing victims, that speak to the larger issues of racism that are a persistent problem. 

Pham said she hopes the University is working to rectify the larger issue. “I hope the magnitude of what the Black community has endured in Princeton is not lost on administrators and when there is time for proposals to be made and actions, it’s not just about the minimum,” she said. “It should be about everything they can do to make this right.” Rochelle Ellis, lecturer in music, closed the program by leading the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.”