root - Posted on 12 December 2000

A Candelight Vigil for Idriss Stelley

by Leroy Moore

The night was crisp and the red sun was about to set as the radiant moon covered the star filled sky. The crowd hovered inward, to share body heat and shelter each other. A warm, respectful and supportive family-like crowd of twenty to thirty friends, family members and supporters of Idriss Stelley and his mother gathered outside the Sony Metreon Theater on September 13th to pay respects and to remember the colorful life of Idriss. More than fifty people shed their own light on the Metreon, where Idriss was shot more than twenty times by police officers of SFPD on June 13, 2001.

The warmth and light that beamed around the circle came by many creative outlets. Some fifty candles were lit as artists, activists, family and friends called on Idriss’ spirit through Congo drumming, with spoken word from The Po'Poets of POOR Magazazine, stories and personal comments and songs. Food Not Bombs nurtured our stomachs with French bread and soup. The beautiful words gave strength to our souls. Mesha’s candle was lit as she spoke about her son and what it meant for her and other poor people to be standing at the mouth of a symbol of capitalist corporate culture. Candle after candle illuminated the altar, handmade from pictures of Idriss and people’s healing and gorgeous words and artwork.

A rainbow of supporters, youth and elders, all shared the mike to reflect on the life and the endless fight for justice of Idriss and other people with mental illness. The candlelight ceremony closed with a traditional salute to our ancestral spirits as we faced North, South, East and West. The last words came from Sam, Idriss’s soulmate, who encouraged, “Don’t give up the fight.” He also announced a hearing at the Board of Supervisors on the shootings of people with mental illness, such as Idriss Stelley.

When the crowd dispersed, I stared at the Sony Metreon Theater. A man pushed his shopping cart, heading away from the theater. The warmth left.


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