Danroy ‘DJ’ Henry candlelight vigil: A walk to remember why we can never forget

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Gryphon Williams

The base of the clocktower filled with candles as students remember DJ Henry’s life.

Gryphon Williams, Contributing Writer

“We walk today in honor of a life that shouldn’t have been lost, DJ Henry,” said student and SGA Vice President Stephanie Nazario, to the dozens of faculty, students, and alumni who gathered to begin the walk and candlelit vigil held 10 years to the day after his untimely passing.

Students follow social-distancing guidelines while walking from the football field to the clocktower. (Gryphon Williams)

Beginning at the football field, overlooked by the Ianniello Field House, participants in the event walked past Miller Hall and Choate Pond, concluding at the DJ Henry Memorial Clocktower outside of Goldstein Fitness Center. Speakers went one by one talking respectfully about DJ and his memory, as well as what we can do as a campus and community to prevent something like this from happening to anybody else.

“We light these candles to remember who DJ Henry was. We’re lighting them because it’s been 10 years,” Nazario said. “This happened 10 years ago and is happening 10 years later, still recurring. Happening, still happening, this is what we need justice for.”

Students light candles to remember Henry on what would have been his 31st birthday. (Gryphon Williams)

“We’re not here to talk about a victim. We’re not here to talk about somebody as if they’re a statistic or a talking point or some political entity to hop on, because they’re not,” said Isaiah Fenichel, senior and member of Pace’s Student Diversity Committee. “DJ Henry was 20 years old and I’m sure there’s plenty of people here who are around that age. He was also a Pace student: everyone here is a Pace student. He was an athlete, he was your teammate.”

“It is beautiful to see all of yall here…” he said further, “…but I would be remiss if I didn’t say this isn’t the first DJ Henry vigil. Truth be told, a lot of you weren’t here in the years past so take this as a moment to understand this is our community. This is something that happened at home that could’ve been any one of us here.”

While maintaining social distancing procedures, a line formed at a table next to the DJ Henry clocktower for people to collect their candles in preparation for a 2 minute moment of silence.

Another point of contention amongst students was that the time displayed on the clocktower, the main commemorative piece of DJ’s memory on campus, always displayed the wrong time.

In response, in conjunction with the university and staff, students fought for the proper adjustments to be made and the clock now displays the proper time.

The lone number on the clock is number 12, DJ’s football number.

Student-body attendance was in full-force, with students of all backgrounds gathering for one common goal: to pay their respects. Athletic-students from a plethora of sports such as football, swim, and lacrosse made their presence felt as well as numerous fraternities and sororities across campus. Even students without any organizational ties came to remember DJ, the impact his life had, and how he continues to be a beacon of unity on campus even 10 years after his passing.

The speaker’s messages could be summed up in the words of Sister Susan Becker, the campus Chaplin at Pace. She spoke about everybody gathering and drew a comparison between embers of a smoldering flame.

“My mind jumps to an image that, before electricity and indoor heat in rural houses, they would bank the fire so that they could make sure there were embers in the ashes so that they wouldn’t have to start the fire all over again the next day. I’m thinking about our job as citizens, as members with the Pace Community, but as our job as citizens, as human beings, is to go and get the ember from the ashes and keep it alive. This isn’t just about memory, it is about memory, but it’s about life and it’s about you going out wherever you go and keep the fire of racial justice alive… Kindle the life that’s there. Illuminate,” she explained.

In commemoration, the gathering of so many people will continue for years to come and Pace Students will scream his name from the mountain tops for everyone to hear. Without a shadow of a doubt, Danroy “DJ” Henry’s life mattered.