Remembering our bright stars, Ilah and Jaden

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A memorial honoring Ilah Richardson ‘23 and Jaden Burris ‘22 outside Herrick Memorial Chapel at Occidental College. Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Dominic Massimino/The Occidental

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A year later, the Occidental community continues to remember and celebrate the lives of two beloved students, Ilah Richardson ‘23 and Jaden Burris ‘22. Both Ilah and Jaden made Occidental College a brighter place, and the community remembers them for their vibrant and passionate presence on campus.

In honor of the one-year anniversaries of their deaths, President Harry J. Elam Jr. asked students via email to take a campus-wide moment of silence on Jan. 27 to honor Ilah and another moment of silence on Feb. 20 to honor Jaden.

Rob Flot, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, asked students, faculty and staff to take time for a bike ride in Ilah’s honor. Ilah loved to ride her bike on campus and in the neighborhood as a symbol of “freedom and independence,” Flot wrote Feb. 16.

Jaden was a member of Occidental’s track and field team. Flot wrote in an email Feb. 16 to remember him by taking a walk or a run in his memory. Some members of the track and field team left from Herrick Memorial Chapel and ran in the neighborhood around campus to honor their fellow teammate. Jaden loved music and wrote and recorded his own, so Flot invited the community to share and listen to his music. Occidental’s Black Student Alliance also hosted a “Remembering Jaden P. Burris” celebration of life Feb. 20.

Occidental community members made two altars in front of the Lucile Gilman Fountain to honor both Ilah and Jaden Feb. 19–21. Many left Ilah and Jaden small symbols of their love, including flowers, Occidental merchandise and notes.

Even in their passing, Ilah and Jaden’s lights cannot burn out. We remember the bright lives and the radiant smiles of the beautiful Ilah Richardson and Jaden Burris.