Organizers said the purpose of the vigil was to mourn, to remember and to stand together for people who have "lost their lives to social injustice."
Strong winds made it difficult to keep candles lit for the vigil, so participants lit the lights on their cellphones and held them aloft.
People took smaller versions of the “Black Lives Matter” flag, handed out at the beginning of the vigil, and placed them in the ground around the flagpole as names were read of several African Americans whose deaths have become rallying cries for the Black Lives Matter movement: Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, among others.
Two speakers also read the names of black transgender women who have been killed, saying, “In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, … we must love each other and support each other.”
The evening included an a capella group, Outlandish, singing several songs, including, “We Shall Overcome” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sometimes referred to as the black national anthem. Later, participants joined the Interdenominational Youth Choir in singing “Amazing Grace.”
The crowd was predominantly black, but there were also whites, Hispanics and Asians in the crowd. All joined hands as a speaker led them in prayer, asking God to “help people understand this is not just us complaining” and to “help us love each other” and “help us to stand together and make a difference on this campus.”
A small group of less than a dozen protesters opposing the vigil also was present.
Talking before the vigil began, senior Kyndle Hunter of Matteson, vice president of the Black Student Union, which organized the vigil, said having the Black Lives Matter flag flying over the quad “shows that ISU cares. It shows that ISU is trying.”
ISU President Larry Dietz attended the start of the rally, walking through the crowd, shaking hands and talking with many of those present. Levester Johnson, vice president of student affairs, also was present.
Hurdylyn Woods, ISU coordinator of diversity advocacy, said the vigil and flag are raising awareness and starting the conversation about black concerns. The flag was raised on a university flagpole earlier in the day with permission from the administration.
"Don't let the conversation end,” he told the crowd. “Use the knowledge that you have to make the world better. It starts right now.”
Pamela Hoff, an associate professor in the department of educational administration and foundations, said “Black lives have always mattered,” but “unfortunately, we have to continue to assert ourselves.”
She called on the crowd to to join in a nationwide community solidarity day on Wednesday, wearing Black Lives Matters T-shirts all day. This will be followed by a time of reflection from 6 to 7:20 p.m. Wednesday (see story below).