Event organizer, Mustafa Malick

Photo: Skyler Ash

Candlelight vigil for Harambe deemed racist by students

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By Sidney Drmay and Skyler Ash

Some students feel that the candlelight vigil held for Harambe, the gorilla that was killed in Cincinnati after carrying around a little boy who fell into the enclosure, was racist.

The vigil, held in Lake Devo Thursday night, garnered a crowd of about 80 people. Candles were passed out and music was played on loudspeakers.

Event organizer Mustafa Malick, third-year computer science, said that he thought that it was important to bring together the community and reflect about things that happened in the past.

Soon after the gorilla’s death in May, a Harambe meme took over the Internet and was used in racist attacks against celebrities, such as Leslie Jones. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, where Harambe was kept, have released statements saying that they do not approve of the memes.

One student posted a picture of a gorilla in a graduation cap on the Facebook event page with the accompanying text, “the picture CNN won’t post”—appearing to equate Harambe’s death to the controversial death of Michael Brown, a Black teen who was killed by police while unarmed.


Photo: Kosalan Kathiramalanathan

Casandra Fullwood, a Ryerson Feminist Collective organizer, said she was shocked that Ryerson let this event come to fruition. “They just let the Facebook group accumulate … and let this mockery of Black lives go on,” said Fullwood, adding that the people who attended the event probably wouldn’t even show up for a Black Lives Matter protest. “These are the same people who say all lives matter.”

Malick said the event was not meant to be racist and that had he known that people considered it anti-Black, he would have considered cancelling it “depending on how serious it was.”

“I’m not sure why people think its anti-Black,” he said. “Gorillas are not people …To me it’s just all I saw was animal cruelty and I thought it was important to bring attention to that.”

Ryerson fourth year sociology student Ikram Hassan said the Harambe meme is “anti-Black racism at its finest.” More than a week ago, she said she contacted Malick to express her concerns. Malick responded saying that the event was a “joke,” and that Hassan could report the event page if she’d like, but he “won’t be doing anything about it.”




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