Of Strangers in White

The Gabriel event held on September 30thwas a new learning experience for me as I had never participated in a march driven by a purpose or solid intent. When we first arrived at the burial ground we were greeted warmly by Free Egunfemi and she briefed us about our purpose for that day. That helped to clear some hazy ideas I had prior to the event. We were then passed on to Amina and Christine who taught us some moves for the march. Honestly, I really enjoyed those moves and how purposeful they were – it was a simple dance but interlaced with a message, a fight. At least that is what I thought it was. When the marching started, I was totally engrossed with the beats echoed by the djembes (and other percussions). It moved me. It moved everyone else present there. We moved together, I think we might have had the same purpose in mind. The energy emitted was contagious. We were mostly strangers but we smiled and flowed together. Not forgetting that we smothered parts of our body with fragrant water which was meant to cleanse ourselves and protect us from getting “moved” by the spirits at the burial ground. This whole experience was super rich for me.

As we got on the highway shoulder, it came to my realisation that “whoa this could be dangerous!”. Being a virgin at any activism-related events (at that time), I was for one moment, scared for my life and everyone who was there with me. There were a few cars that slowed down to observe us and I was worried that our march might have upset someone. Coming from a country where freedom of speech is unpopular (and also frowned upon), I was genuinely surprised at where I was that evening; with a group of people in white, marching on one of Richmond’s busiest highways.

What I learned from this experience was empathising with others’ struggles/fights and knowing that any forms support from outsiders is welcomed and appreciated. I’ve learned back home how dance/movements can be a powerful instrument to move people when armed with intention and purpose, but I had never seen how powerful it was like during the evening of the Gabriel event.

After that night, I was wondering how would the rest of the event fall together on October 10th? What is more to our role as UR and VCU’s students?




Gabriel Week Event


How to: Commemorate


  1. Kayla Schiltz

    I think Americans forget that we were gifted with the right of freedom of speech. We are able to walk to streets and perform a march while other people from other countries cannot express themselves in that same manner. We cannot take our voices and what we are able to say with them for granted.

  2. Sabrina Borneff

    I agree with Kayla that we often forget how lucky we are to have the freedom of speech. I really liked that you brought this perspective to the light and am glad you were able to be a part of a march like this one. This was also my first march and I felt not scared but a bit uneasy when we first united in the movement.

  3. Kayla Connelly

    I would like to emphasize your point, Melisa, about learning to be empathetic. We all go through struggles of different sizes and shapes, but it’s important to know that we have others that are willing to help us heal and recover from our obstacles. Thank you for adding this to your response, I think empathy is something we all can and should practice.

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