President defends university, criticizes media during prayer vigil on campus
BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Following the April 3 shooting of four Bethune-Cookman University students at an off-campus party, local and national media are being criticized for incorrectly referring to the party as a school-sponsored event.
It was not.
B-CU President Edison O. Jackson expressed his displeasure Wednesday afternoon with headlines that indicated the party was a school event.
According to a Daytona Beach Police Department report, the April 3 party was held at 338 Henry Butts Drive. Internet mapping tool Mapquest shows the location is a 19-minute walk from the campus.
“No matter what they want to say about us as an institution, we are a quality university of higher education,” Jackson said Wednesday to those gathered on the campus grounds for a prayer vigil. “We are greater than those who may try to work against us.”
Jackson: ‘Be fair’
Addressing students, faculty and community members, Jackson joined university leaders on Wednesday afternoon for a prayer vigil against violence.
“I was particularly concerned with how the media portrayed our institution,” Jackson articulated.
“And the juxtaposition of where we are and the house party at Bethune-Cookman University. You have to take a long walk to get to that place. But some would suggest that it is part of our campus or just around the corner.”
“We need to talk about if you are going to report, be fair about your reporting. If you are going to tarnish everyone, fine. But don’t be selective, and I’m saying this to the media. We as a people have been subjected to an unfair presentation of who we are. But young people, we don’t have to give them the ammunition to fulfill that. So I am saying I am anguished, I’m in despair, but I’m not giving up.”
“In your meditation hour, lift up all of our students. Help our young people understand they are on a journey called life and see it fulfilled and not snuffed out by someone randomly shooting a gun,” he stated.
Suspect in custody
Vincent “Wu” Smith, 23, allegedly fired several rounds inside the house party on Henry Butts Drive late Friday night. Reports indicate that the shooting, where 50 or more people were gathered, was in retaliation for Smith being kicked out of a party at the address a month prior.
Four university students were injured in the shooting. Reginald Graham, 20, was shot in his left side; a bullet pierced Vintonisha Smith, 19, on her right side, Frank Thomas, 21, was shot in his right hand, and Darian Baker, 21, sustained a gunshot wound in his right hand. A bullet also grazed his left knee.
All injuries are considered non life-threatening.
Smith has been charged with four counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of discharging a firearm in public.
He was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail where he was being held on a $100,000 bail.
‘Something in the atmosphere’
The April 3 shooting follows a Feb. 23 shooting near the university’s music building. Ladell Pleasure, a 21-year-old B-CU student was charged in that shooting that left three students injured.
“The enemy is always out there,” said Jackson. “The enemy attempts to consume our young people wherever they live. Some of the conditions that some of our young people come out of are not by their work, or lack thereof, but the truth of the matter is we can change things. We meaning not just Bethune-Cookman University, but we, as a society.”
“So that young people can have hope,” he continued. “They come to Bethune-Cookman University so they can have a better life. That is what we are about. Transforming the lives of our young people. We are going to continue to do that, no matter what the opposition may try to do.”
Jackson led the prayer at the vigil followed by other university and student leaders. Gold and white balloons were released to signify the release of violence that has recently plagued the community and the nation.
“It is a spiritual warfare. There is something in the atmosphere that works and tries to destroy our young people. But we are going to win,” said Jackson.
“I said, we are going to win!”
“We’ve come too far for God to leave us now and we shall overcome. Not tomorrow, but today,” the president continued. “There was a Negro spiritual that they sung during the Civil Rights Movement that said we will overcome tomorrow, someday. We’ve already overcome. We are the mighty Wildcats.
Every young person that we educate is one person less in a lesser place in our society.”
More campus activities
B-CU student Jasmine Bourney spoke with the Daytona Times following the vigil.
“This incident,” she began. “Being that it is a second incident related to the campus I feel like it is an eye-opener. This is serious and affects our school campus wide.”
During the vigil, Jackson told students that he will implement more recreational activities available for students on campus so they won’t have to find entertainment elsewhere.
He said the school will begin hosting alcohol-free parties on campus and a 24-hour eatery soon will open so students won’t have to leave campus to get a late-night meal.
The school also will begin showing movies.
“I feel like the initiatives President Jackson stated will be implemented on campus will help to avoid any other incidents such as this,” Bourney added.
New code of conduct
Jackson also noted a new code of conduct that would be distributed to students. Violations of the conduct will result in immediate dismissal from the school.
Guns are not allowed on campus, drugs are not allowed on campus, and fighting is not allowed,” he stressed.
“We will hold high the banner of Bethune-Cookman University.”
He added, “We have to protect the brand. We cannot allow the senseless acts of violence to determine our future. We cannot afford the actions of a few people to be the face of our university. I ask you to stand in solidarity as we eradicate violence against our community.”