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Fresno community members hold a garland made of white, red and yellow flowers in front of a Mahatma Gandhi statue at the 148th birthday celebration of Gandhi at Fresno State’s Peace Garden on Oct. 4, 2017. (Daniel Avalos/The Collegian)

Las Vegas shooting victim remembered at Gandhi event

In show of love, more than 100 people honored Kelsey Meadows, the former Fresno State student who became a victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct.1. The crowd gathered at the Peace Garden for the 27th annual Mahatma Gandhi birthday celebration last Wednesday.

A moment of silence for Meadows was led by Associated Students, Inc. President Blake Zante. His remarks highlighted the “unique bond” that Fresno State students and alumni hold.

University President Dr. Joseph Castro previously proclaimed Sept. 27 through Oct. 7 as “Stop The Hate, Stop The Violence Week: Build A Culture of Peace Commemoration.”

In the proclamation Castro said, “Each member of our community is asked to make a difference in the moral and social climate by participating in this effort to reduce hate violence and build a culture of peace throughout the year.”

And he said Fresno State will not condone or tolerate hate-related acts on campus. That sentiment was welcomed at an event honoring a former student killed in a violent mass shooting and remembering a man known for promoting peace.  

In his 27th year of observance at the university, Fresno State professor Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, founder of the peace and conflict studies program and professor emeritus of social work education, asked students from the program to make signs with their favorite Gandhi quote.

Some students chose classic Gandhian quotes such as “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” while other students chose quotes that may be lesser known.

Freshman victimology major Devin Hernandez chose the quote, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

In a news release, Kapoor described Gandhi as an apostle of peace and nonviolence, the father of human rights in the 20th century and patron saint of peace movements globally.

Hernandez said Gandhi’s teachings are “A good source of learning how to hold yourself in a peaceful status and a more positive lifestyle.”

Vice President of Administration Deborah Adishian-Astone, Kapoor and other members of the university administration held a garland made of red, white and yellow carnations and laid it on top of the statue’s base around the figurehead.

Professor and coordinator of the peace and conflict studies program Veena Howard told the audience about her experience in celebrating Gandhi’s birthday as a child growing up in India.

Similar to the garlanding ceremony at Fresno State, she said Indian children would place flowers around a statue or photo of Gandhi.

The crowd was given flowers to lay on the statue, as well. Audience members formed a line and took turns laying their flowers at the base.

As flowers were passed out, Howard paraphrased Gandhi: “If the hate is thrown towards you, respond with love and never lose sight of justice, courage and nonviolence.”

Various speakers addressed the crowd. District 31 Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula spoke about Ghandi saying, “It is imperative that we learn lessons from him, and we celebrate his life so that we can honor his legacy. ”

Arambula said he believed Gandhi would have joined in the fight for equal rights concerning contemporary issues of education and healthcare.

“For when we don’t have access to things like education and healthcare, we don’t live [a] long, productive life,” Arambula said.

Traditional songs and dances from India were performed in honor of Gandhi, as well as a moment for meditation led by Kapoor’s wife, Dr. Veena Kapoor.

By the end, crowd members arranged themselves in a circle of unity and lit candles. They said aloud a condemnation of hate.

The crowd said in part, “Hate crimes have no place in my future, not in my life. No way.”