In the wake of the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings, hundreds from all races congregated at South Park in Lawrence, Ks for a candle light vigil hosted by LFK and Black Lives Matter. The vigil was promoted to be an event to honor the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as to provide a safe place for people of color, as well as gay and trans to congregate and mourn and to be heard.The event started at about 8 pm and lasted past 10 pm. The speakers each shared stories of fear and persecution at the hands of police officers, subtle racist remarks from white friends, and pleas for justice and conversation.
Of all the speakers, the two most profound for me were a man named Patrick, and a child named Quincy. Patrick's speech resonated Martin Luther King Jr. with his requests for conversation and communication. After telling his story, the trials he faced in his life and ultimately conquered, he left the mic with a single request. He said, "You know what I look like, come up and start a conversation."
Little Quincy simply stated, "I matter."
Of the 20 or so speakers, the theme seemed constant. Conversation, fear, anger, and demands for justice. I thought I got it. I had a few questions for Caleb, the coordinator and one of the key speakers. I approached him and started to ask him one. He put his hand up to me and simply said,
" I am speaking with people of color right now."
I jokingly responded with, "I am Jewish! Does that count?" I don't think he heard me, as he was walking away. What I do know is I was shut out. I turned to my production assistant and asked him what just happened. He shrugged his shoulders in disbelief. Normally, when a journalist is shut out it is due to the interviewee being offended, busy, or just doesn't want to talk. I was shut out, at that moment, because people of color had priority. As my PA and I were walking back to the car, I finally got it. I finally understood. Caleb educated me. He showed me what it was like to be him. Educated, with something to say, but shut down because I did not resemble him. Because I was the wrong color. That lesson stuck with me. Determined, I was going to get my interview of three questions from him.
The next day I reached out to him by phone. We agreed to have a phone interview that afternoon. However, from the morning to the interview I reevaluated everything I have seen and heard concerning the claims of BLM. Hell, the claims of every person of color I ever knew. I realized that something was, in fact, very broken, and excuses were no longer acceptable. It was time to acknowledge there is a problem in our country regarding race. That the end was not desegregation. The marches did not end when our parents came home from Selma. That the issue of race continues to rear its head, smirking at each one of us in our arrogance and ignorance of the issues of Black America. I thanked him for the incident. He taught me what it was like to be like him. He was glad that is what I took from it.
Caleb said, "Liberation is not the responsibility of the oppressed but of the privileged" Indeed.
Editor note: There were several speakers at this rally. All were inspiring and heartbreaking and they deserves to be heard. In an event of this size, I have my PA video the event for note taking purposes. I will be working on the video to post in the coming weeks, despite the picture quality, the sound quality is fantastic. Also, this event was much too large to cover in one article, so expect a few more after this,. Lots of exciting things coming up from the Lawrence BLM chapter. Stay tuned!.