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UCF's Alpha Phi Alpha holds vigil for Charleston victims Rachel Stuart, Central Florida Future

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Nine candles were held in the strong hands of Alpha men to honor the nine lives lost in the Charleston shooting.

On Friday, the Xi Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. held a candlelight vigil in UCF's Student Union to remember the victims who were killed in Wednesday's shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

"Our first reaction was that we need to honor the lives that were lost, so we should have a vigil. It was like instinct," said Alpha Phi Alpha member Korey Salter.

At about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the fraternity brothers gathered by the stairwell in the Union to open up the vigil and thank everyone for coming out.

Cass Brown, the president of the Xi Iota Chapter of the fraternity, shared that one of their fraternity brothers, South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, had passed away in the Charleston shooting.

"A guy turned a church, a place of love, acceptance and worship, into a crime scene," said Brown, a senior biology major. "There should be openness and love for everyone."

Surrounding the roped-off UCF emblem in the "Heart of Campus," supporters held each other arm-in-arm to join the vigil and respect the victims in the shooting.

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"We felt obligated as Alpha men to make sure we have something to represent our unity, strength and basically our concern for all these events in the world," Brown said.

As his first big event as chapter president, Brown said he wanted to show that his fraternity is more than what people may think it is.

"We're working men. We feel that we're obligated not only to be great human beings, students, scholars and businessmen, but we also want to be great humanitarians," he said.

After fraternity brothers shared their thoughts about the Charleston shooting, a local pastor expressed some feelings of his own, concluding with a moment of silence. Two young women then showed their support, one through a poem and the other with a song.

As the vigil in the Union came to a close, the Alpha brothers each held a candle and followed one another outside, bringing the crowd together to witness the nine candles being lit in remembrance of the nine lives lost.

"We just want to show our love for all mankind," said Salter, a spring 2015 graduate in criminal justice. "We want to raise awareness and let people know that we're here for them."

Standing in the crowd of support, the sisters of the Pi Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority stood under their pink and green umbrellas to join the community in support.

Sorority member Erin Grigley, a junior marketing major, said the fight will not stop here, as the sisters will continue to be advocates and leaders for social change in the community.

"It is not just the sorority's responsibility to be a voice for change, but it is everyone's responsibility," Grigley said.

Among the nine victims in the shooting were Rev. Sharonda Singleton and Cynthia Hurd, both sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The sorority's sister of public relations Adrianna Tilton, a senior health sciences pre-clinical major, said her sorority is supportive of the other groups that are making such a positive impact on the community as a whole.

As the candles blew out and the sun started to set, the Alpha brothers got together and formed a circle to proudly say their chant.

"I'm just trying to promote that vision that Alpha has, and really show my love for not only the Alphas, but the world as well," Brown said.

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Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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