¿Cuantas vidas más? Latino Student Union holds vigil to celebrate Adam Toledo’s life and grieve his death


Two dozen students, faculty and staff gathered Thursday night around 7 p.m. outside Memorial Hall in Lexington, Ky. to celebrate Adam Toledo’s life and grieve his death. Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29, 2021, becoming the latest in a string of Black and minority deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

Sarah Michels

¿Cuantas vidas más tenemos que celebrar? How many more lives must we celebrate?

 That was the question Thursday night as a group of two dozen mourned Adam Toledo’s death at the hands of a Chicago police officer on March 29, 2021. 

The gathering on the grassy lawn behind Memorial Hall included students, mostly from UK’s Latino Student Union, as well as professors, staff and Provost David Blackwell.

Anthony Labrado, president of UK’s Latino Student Union, said he organized the event to create an opportunity for the community to grieve. Labradol grew up in Chicago, and said he has family members who lived in Adam Toledo’s neighborhood. This was the final straw.  

“I know that in the end, it isn’t just me that’s grieving,” he said. “It’s a lot of other people who are like Adam, who are looking for that opportunity, and honestly just need their voices heard.” 

The vigil was a subdued event, the sound of birds chirping seemingly out of place among the poignant words of attendees. After Labrado gave a short speech in Spanish, several others took turns verbalizing their own thoughts, frustrations and grief. 

“I was just thinking about, you know, what was I doing at 13. I was playing Minecraft with my friends, doing Skype calls, doing math homework together, excited about what junior high school would be like,” said UK student Adrian Dozal. “It’s just, it’s really, really painful to me to just think about how Adam will never get the chance to grow up.”

Dozal talked about how in a post-9/11 world, many people his age have been desensitized to the regular dosage of mass shootings and police brutality. He commented on Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd, announced earlier this week. 

“It’s like, what kind of what kind of a world do we live in, where it’s like the fact that the whole nation was waiting with bated breath to see Derek Chauvin get a guilty verdict for a murder that he committed on camera?” Dozal asked. “What does that say about our country?”

The crowd may have been small, but their emotion permeated the area. They spoke about the fear they have, not only for themselves, but for people they know who are not too unlike Adam Toledo or George Floyd or Daunte Wright or Ma’Khia Bryant. UK student Adrianna Navia spoke about a group of elementary students with which she’s worked. She said it breaks her heart to have to have tough conversations with them about the measures they must take to stay safe in America. 

“They’re all Latino, and just thinking about how they’re not so much different from Adam’s age right now and just knowing that if they were ever in a confrontation, their innocence is automatically disregarded, because of their skin color, they’re not given any benefit of the doubt and that’s extremely hard to think about and talk with them,” Navia said. 

Provost David Blackwell was invited to speak at the event, where he shared his condolences to Adam Toledo’s family and the entire grieving community. He acknowledged the gravity of this moment in the nation’s history and the strength it takes to carry on in the motions of everyday life with tragedies like Toledo’s weighing on people’s hearts. 

“But we are here for each other. And this gathering speaks to our commitment to be a community that cares at this university we want everyone to know that they are valued and respected,” Blackwell said. “My hope is that we continue to honor the life of Adam Toledo every day. By doing the work and set out for us to make this place more welcoming for all.”

Labrado said the best way UK students can create change in their own lives is by making a real effort to educate themselves and listen, since the biggest problem is often ignorance about the issue. 

“There’s plenty of classes here at UK that can educate you about Latino history, Black history, just so many courses that you can use to educate yourself on a lot of the systemic issues that we have so that when they move on forward in the future, they can participate and take part of more active change,” Labrado said. 

Ruth Gonzalez Jimenez of the MLK Center echoed the need for continued education in her remarks to the group. 

“When you hear someone say something incorrectly, or justifying or warranting the death of a child, we can say the fact of the matter is the principle, which is that we all deserve a fair and equitable chance at reform and adjustment,” Jimenez said. “The child deserved to make it to the back of the police car.”

The vigil ended with a moment of silence for several of the many people of color who have been recently killed at the hands of law enforcement.

“I don’t think they’ll be able to get an opportunity for closure,” Labrado said, talking about what he hoped attendees got out of the event. “But I think that what they were able to get is that you know, a sense that we’re not alone in this, that we’re all going through this and that this is a fight that we’re all going through together.”

¿Cuantas vidas más? How many more lives must be lost, remembered in small late evening vigils, before children like Adam Toledo no longer have to live in fear?