Chico mourns passing of Linda Blacksten

The Devil whispered in her ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today she whispered in the Devil’s ear, “I am the storm.”
– Unknown

In the early hours of October 30, 2018, Linda Blacksten, 55, passed away just outside the south entrance to Kendall Hall as the result of a senseless act of violence and brutality.

Students, faculty, and members of the community gathered for a vigil the following Monday. The evening began with a moment of silence followed by a prayer. Attendees with prepared materials spoke first. Some had written their own speech while others read poems or short quotations from various authors, some unknown. The floor was then opened to anyone else who wished to share.

Once everyone had their chance to speak, the crowd migrated to the the south side of Kendall Hall where Linda had spent her last moments. Those in attendance were again encouraged to speak freely. While many came forward most readily admitted they didn’t know much about Linda. However, one individual pointed out that there are some things we all know about Linda even though we never met her.

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Community members have been paying their respects leaving by flowers and cards near the south enterance to Kendall Hall, where Linda Blacksten spent her final moments as she was brutally beaten to death. Photo credit: Dan Christian

We know Linda had a family. We know she was someone’s daughter. Maybe she was someone’s sister or cousin as well. We know Linda lived a life with ups and downs, highs and lows, just the same as the rest of us. Though we can only speculate, perhaps she even fell in love once or twice.

We also know Linda was a victim. Not just of a victim of brutality but a victim of circumstance. At the time of her murder, Linda was houseless. Some would say “homeless” but that isn’t the case. Linda lived in Chico, therefore Chico was Linda’s home, and we were her neighbors. Though she may not have had a house to stay in she was a part of the community. When Linda died we lost one of our own.

Some who spoke believe Linda’s struggle with housing may have contributed to the circumstances leading up to her death. They cited statistics which claim houseless women are up to 40% more likely to be the victims of domestic violence.

Some felt that this tragedy could have been avoided if we had all come together for Linda a week ago, the night before her life was taken rather than nearly a week after. It stands to reason things would have been different if a crowd of over a hundred people showed up to support Linda the night before she was slain.

This is not the first time in recent history that tragedy has struck close to campus.

Last January, Tom Avakian, 51, died near the Mechoopda cemetery, directly adjacent to campus.

In November 2015, there were three deaths within mere days of one another. Colma Roy Youpee, 59, Edward Louis Doran, 42, and Sharon Ann Gray, 59, all died of exposure as they all suffered from a lack of housing.

We can’t change what happened in the past but we can decide what happens in the future.

There is an inscription above the doors of Kendall Hall that reads “Today Decides Tomorrow.”

It may be too late for Linda but it’s not too late to save the next victim.

When you remember Linda Blacksten, remember the members of our community who are struggling to make ends meet. If you are interested in volunteering feel free to contact one of the agencies listed below.

Your time is all it takes to make a difference.

For more information about volunteering in the community please feel free to contact one of the agencies below:

Dan Christian can be reached at newseditor@theorion.com or @DanoftheOrion on Twitter.

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