Megan Hayes | News Editor
Alyssiah “Lele” Marie Wiley, 20, was a student at Eastern Connecticut State University majoring in psychology with a minor in biology. Wiley, who was an all-around enthusiastic and smiley person, was an influential member of Eastern’s community and was always on the move around campus. She was secretary of the F.E.M.A.L.E.S. (Females Excelling Maturing to Achieve Leadership, Excellence, and Success) organization on campus, which aims to connect young women within the community to form a sisterhood, as well as build their professional status. Wiley, a kind and beautiful soul, was taken from our world in April of 2013, when she left campus with her boyfriend. Wiley was in an abusive relationship with a 30-year-old Connecticut private-duty nurse, Jermaine Richards. The two had been dating since Alyssiah was in high school.
Around a month after her disappearance from Eastern, Alyssiah’s partial remains were found in a wooded area in Trumbull, Connecticut, having been murdered and dismembered by her boyfriend. This horrible and sudden death of a young and influential mind shook the community immensely. In response to this horrific event, Alyssiah’s mother, Corinna Martin, organized a group called Mothers of Victim’s Equality, or MOVE. MOVE aims to support domestic violence victims and their families. Martin, who later in 2017 lost another daughter named Chaquinequea Brodie and her granddaughter, My'Jaeaha Richardson also to domestic violence, has dedicated her life to speaking up for victims of domestic violence. Aside from spreading awareness, Martin aspires to give back to the community, especially those in impoverished living conditions, who are statistically most at risk of experiencing domestic violence. Martin gives back by providing bags of essentials (menstrual products, washcloths, soap, toothbrushes/toothpaste) to local citizens in need. Eastern’s F.E.M.A.L.E.S. club along with the Women’s Center of the ECSU Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing have been working to spread awareness about domestic violence as well as honor Alyssiah Wiley’s life. In 2015, Eastern started the annual tradition of the “Lele Project” week—a direct influence of Corinna Martin, which is all about making sure victims of domestic violence are heard.
I had the opportunity to speak to Abigail Collins, a junior at ECSU and the Vice President of F.E.M.A.L.E.S. (soon to be President), about the Lele Week Project. Abigail spoke on how this year, April 20th of 2023, is the 10-year-anniversary of Alyssiah’s disappearance. She is grateful to be a part of the program and wants to “help others be given a voice... even if they don’t wish to speak, I want them to know we are here for them.” Throughout this week, there have been events hosted daily on campus in Wiley’s memory. On Monday, the week started with students and faculty painting the Eastern rock white with purple handprints, the color of domestic violence awareness. Across the rock, in big bold letters was written “THESE HANDS DON’T HURT,” a statement against physical abuse in relationships. Eastern’s clock tower has been lit up pink this week, which was Alyssiah’s favorite color – a tribute that can be seen campus-wide. On Tuesday, F.E.M.A.L.E.S held a t-shirt fundraiser in the Student Center for memorial shirts and sent all proceeds to Corinna’s MOVE organization. 4 sessions of poster making were held throughout the week to prepare for the rally, held on Thursday as a part of “Take Back the Night”.
| "These hands don't hurt."
“Take Back the Night,” an annual event held by the Women’s Center, F.E.M.A.L.E.S., the Office of Equity and Diversity, and the Unity Wing, is composed of multiple events aiming to reclaim the night, when most domestic violence happens. Held in the Betty Tipton Room, the event started with Cina Roch, keynote speaker and founder of Written Purpose, holding a ceremony and speak out event for survivors of domestic violence to support a community that will not allow gender-based violence. Next, a candlelight vigil was held for Alyssiah Wiley in the Fine Arts Instructional Center lawn, with a moment of silence to honor Alyssiah’s life. The event bridged into a cross-campus rally, where “say her name, Alyssiah Wiley” as well as “these hands don’t hurt” was chanted loudly to spread awareness to all. The event finished off with an “afterburner” -- an event to eat, debrief, and relax, as the topic is a heavy one.
I was also able to speak to Jayline Hernandez-Gomez, a student ambassador for the Women’s Center. She shared with me the impact that this event has had on ECSU, she said it is “a way that the Eastern community has connected on a much deeper level... honoring and acknowledging experiences we have all had or heard of... regardless of if someone is a victim or an ally.” When asked about the impact it had on her, she shared that “even though it is an extremely sad story, it is an immensely powerful movement that we have on campus... and a reminder of how Alyssiah showed us all to be brave. It shows our unity, sisterhood, and how we honor those who have lost their lives to domestic violence.” As a closing note, Jayline added that she wanted to thank everyone that had come together to honor Alyssiah, as it has truly made an immeasurable impact.