COLUMBIA — Sitting head bowed in a wooden pew, Ashe Kolieboi held one white candle.
In the soft yellow light of the chapel lamps and the flickering candles, more than 40 students and community members filed in throughout the night to share their thoughts and feelings about the death of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old boy who was shot at his school in Oxnard, Calif. Vigil attendees believe King, who was openly gay and harassed at school, was killed because of his sexual orientation. A student, Brandon McInerney, 14, faces murder charges in connection with King’s death, which prosecutors are calling a hate crime.
Kolieboi is an active supporter of gay rights but said he hadn’t heard about King’s Feb. 12 death until two weeks ago. He expressed frustration that King’s death has received so little attention.
“We didn’t even know about it, and we’re activists,” Kolieboi said.
He is not the only one to be surprised at the news.
Ashley Price, president of the Gamma Rho Lambda sorority, said she heard about the shooting at the Midwestern Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, where a speaker asked what audience members were doing about King’s death, and no one seemed to know what had happened.
“The room was silent,” Price said.
The candlelight vigil is part of a two-day memorial of Lawrence King. Friday there will be an open discussion from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center aimed at solving the problems linked with hate crimes, according to memorial organizers Price and Joshua Barton.
Student Alex Johnson expressed frustration that hate crimes could still occur in America today.
“People just think that our country is free,” he said. “It’s not free for everybody.”
After the vigil, Kolieboi was quiet and pensive.
“I’ve just realized,” Kolieboi said, “there’s so much work we have to do.”