After the initial breaking news frenzy of the brutal Islamist attack that killed 148 students in Kenya, the coverage of the massacre in western media waned, as it often does when tragedy hits far from home. Away from the headlines, however, people around the world have been gathering at vigils, honoring the 148 victims.
Hundreds of people attended a candle-light vigil in Nairobi, and 2,500 marched in Garissa itself, protesting against the Somali militants. Elsewhere, fellow university students gathered to commemorate the murdered, their peers. Vigils were held in Belgium, Sweden, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and a number of American universities such as Boston University, Stanford or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The remembrance also played out on social media. The hashtag #147notjustanumber aimed to show the names and faces of the victims rather than repeating the death toll, to emphasize that “147” (the initial count, later changed to 148) was more than just a statistic. As of April 9, the hashtag was included in 88,000 tweets.
It was on Twitter as well that people pointed out the disparities between the reports of the Garissa massacre and the extensive media coverage of attacks in the western part of the world, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that left 12 dead.
At Mic, Zac Cheney-Rice points out:
“We’re going to forget about Garissa because we always forget about places like Garissa: remote, foreign, usually populated with brown or black people. The news cameras stay just long enough to capture the carnage, but as viewers’ attention wavers, the cameras get packed up soon after.”
In this case, however, social media served as a counter-balance to traditional news sources, helping people gather, and remember:
Vigils were held around Kenyan universities:
But also all around the world: