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Monday, May 27, 2024

Campus-wide ‘Moment of Reflection’ encourages community to pause, recognize the weight of recent tragedies

The event featured guest speaker Quentisha Davis Wiles and highlighted on-campus mental health resources available for students


By SONORA SLATER — campus@theaggie.org  


A campus-wide “Moment of Reflection” took place outside of the Memorial Union at noon on Feb. 1, offering a space for community members to come together to reflect on the tragedies that have taken place over the past month, including gun and police violence throughout California and beyond, and closer to campus, the death of a UC Davis student on Jan. 24.

There were several speakers at the event, including International Student Representative Keven Zhou, ASUCD External Affairs Vice President Celene Aridin and Rev. Quentisha Davis Wiles, the senior pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento.

There were also tables set up in the area highlighting various mental health resources available to the campus community, including Student Health and Counseling Services, Aggie Mental Health, the ASUCD Mental Health Initiative and the Craft Center.

Wiles centered her speech around the idea of compassion, saying that the word speaks to the idea of “having your heart impacted by great suffering, and having a great desire to respond.” She invited listeners to pause and recognize the recent tragedies our school, state and nation have suffered, and the weight that can place on people as they “continue to live [their] day-to-day lives.”

We are inundated by violence at home, in our schools, at the shopping stores, in our faith communities, in our work communities; we are not exempt from the violence, none of us,” Wiles said. “And yet, we continue to live, [as] people who understand that bad things happen, but we have the power and ability to make a difference.” 

She went on to explore what it might mean to take action following these tragedies, first saying broadly that she believes we must be people who “don’t ignore the things happening around us,” before speaking directly to “those […] who are studying policy or are in positions of leadership.”

“For those of you who have authority, take authority,” Wiles said. “As the granddaughter of someone who served in the Korean war, as the niece of law enforcement officers, I want to say that policy gives permission for people to do certain things. When we don’t change policy, when we don’t take responsibility, when we don’t care about the situation in front of us because it doesn’t impact us directly, we participate, and we give permission.”

Next, Wiles invited attendees to take “three collective deep breaths,” each with a different theme to meditate on. She explained that the first was “in the spirit of self-care.”

“We have to remember that no matter what we have been charged to do in this world, whatever our assignments are, we are our most valuable assets,” Wiles said. “We are. [Flight attendants] remind us that if there is an emergency ever, you secure your own oxygen mask first. We can’t help anyone else unless we are secure.”

The second breath was “in honor and admiration of our community.”

“People have taken time out of their schedules in their day when they could’ve been doing anything, but they chose to be [here],” Wiles said.

The third and final breath was “for our nation.”

“Our nation is calling out to us, those who are compassionate enough and bold enough, to use our pain and anger constructively,” Wiles said. “To not do harm but progressively make a difference in love and in care and in faith, to leave our mark on the world.”

Wiles then invited those gathered into a full minute of silence from 12:10 p.m. to 12:11 p.m. before ending her speech by asking people to turn to someone next to them and share something that they liked about the UC Davis community. 

Zhou spoke next. His speech referenced UC Davis’s Principles of Community and encouraged students and other listeners to strive to maintain a culture based in these principles. 

“We have an obligation to build and maintain a culture and climate based on mutual respect and caring,” Zhou said. “Let us come together to support each other in this difficult time. 

In the end, I believe that love, unity and compassion will always triumph over hate, division and violence.”

The event was put together very quickly, according to a recent press release, with the idea coming from Cecily Roberts, the director of the Women’s Resources and Research Center. The release said that organizers thought “[it] was important to acknowledge the difficulty of continuing on with daily tasks at work or school when so much tragic news is weighing heavily.”

After the event, there were artificial white roses with positive quotes attached available for community members to take home, and attendees were encouraged to stick around and talk to those around them.


Written by: Sonora Slater — campus@theaggie.org