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It’s been over weeks since George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The country is still reeling over his senseless death and protests have erupted around the world as people demand an end to police brutality and racism.
On Saturday (June 6), Dawn Jenkins and Rukiya Penn organized a peaceful protest in Lake Bluff, a suburban village outside of Chicago, Illinois. Per the town’s 2019 Census, 92% of Lake Bluff’s population consists of white people and only 0.58% of the small town is made up of Black residents.
Meeting at their town’s train station, the protesters walked over to Veterans Memorial in the nearby park and began to chant “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.” As they journeyed throughout the town with their handwritten signs held high; white onlookers were present. These men, women and children were out having brunch, riding their bikes, jogging and, out and about enjoying the day.
Most of the reactions to the protest were well-received. Many of the onlookers honked their horns, cheered and clapped, as the protesters walked through the suburban neighborhood. Kathleen O’Hara, the Mayor of Lake Bluff, approached the protesters to thank them for what they were doing. “We appreciate the message,” she said. “Thank y’all. Welcome to Lake Bluff.”
Speaking out in this area of mostly white people made sense. If Black people want real change, white people have to help. They have to be the ones to call each other out on their racist and stereotypical views, and demand diversity in their workplaces and businesses. Change starts with them.
Penn and Jenkins both shared speeches with the growing crowd. They spoke about the struggles of being Black in America and also challenged their Caucasian allies to fight racism in their daily lives. “We mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, and we live on edge waiting for other names to be added to the list,” Penn said. “It has to stop.”
Other protesters shared their points of view about the current climate of our country. Jenkins, a Black housewife and student, revealed how the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor made her feel.
“I have several emotions that I feel: anger, sadness and fear,” she said. “I am angry because it is yet another one. Another brother or sister whose life has been taken for no reason. I am sad because this manner of death has been bestowed on people of color far too often. Far too many names to scream out loud in protest. I am fearful for our future as Americans and people of color. I mean, what world are we leaving for our children if the attitudes and behaviors never change among those sworn to protect us? Without real systemic change, I feel it will be more of the same.”
Kelly Dobbins, a 23-year-old white teacher, said that it was important for her to be at this protest as an ally for Black people. “This movement can’t happen without an allyship from white people,” she said. “We started the problem, we have to help end it, too.”
Casey Richardson, a white 29-year-old stay-at-home mom, shared what she wants to see be amended as a result of the numerous protests taking place in the U.S. “Nothing short or systemic change,” she stated. “Defund police, increase funding to community programs, especially in minority communities. Ensure repercussions for police who use excessive force. I am not as educated as the Black Lives Matter organization, but I will support them in their platforms.”
Lindsay Kuper, a 23-year-old white woman from Northbrook, Illinois; revealed what she will continue to do to combat racism. “I will continue to fight racism outside of protesting by donating my money and time to organizations that support the Black communities,” she said.
“I will visit poorer communities and educate myself, as well. I will have those difficult conversations everyday with friends, family and strangers about racism. Talk about our history and even ask more questions. I will continue to educate myself on the injustice that has been going on for centuries. I will not stop until Black lives are treated and seen as equal members of the community.”
The group’s fight is far from over. George Floyd’s killers have been arrested and charged, but they need to be convicted. The cops who killed Breonna Taylor are still free. Ahmaud Arbery still needs people to keep his name alive as his trial begins. Continue to fight for equality in these communities, workplaces and schools. Go out and exercise your right to vote, not only in November, but also in your local elections. Police have to be held accountable for their actions toward Black men, women and children. Black lives do matter. The rest of the country and world just need to realize that, too.