Clarksville hosted its “Unity in the Community” event on Saturday, June 20 from 12:00p.m. to 3:00p.m. Several Pastors and Reverends joined the community to pray and speak on the issue of Black Lives Matter. Reverend Cynthia Terry was the first to lead the crowd in prayer.
Speakers at the ceremony included but were not limited to Mayor Kevin Allgood, Pastor Lucas Glasscock and Marine Corp Veteran and Virginia State Policeman Dale Sturdifen.
Organizer Amirah Muhammad began the ceremony by thanking Kevin Allgood, Ricky Wilkinson and Jeff Jones for allowing everyone to gather for the event. She then began her speech which captured the message of the event in her own words:
“I am exhausted. Can I be real with y’all today? I am completely exhausted; physically, mentally and spiritually. I am tired of the existence of my people being reduced to hashtags. #ICan’tBreathe, #SayHerName, #RIPTrayvonMartin, #RIPSandraBland, #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd, #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor, #JusticeforAhmaudArbery and recently #JusticeforRayshardBrooks.
At this point it’s basically #JusticeInsertNameHere. Unfortunately, the list goes on and will continue to grow until we stand up against the evils that plague this country. I can’t help but wonder if I will be added to that list, or any of my loved ones for that matter. I cannot stand the thought of one day becoming a hashtag simply because there are some people in this world who are threatened by the color of my skin. I want to rest in peace while I’m alive.
Today is about more than social media posts or news press; it’s about combating the evil that possessed Derek Chauvin to kneel on George Floyd’s neck until the life seeped out of his body. It is about the casual carelessness that led to Breonna Taylor being shot eight times as she slept in her home. It is about the literal hunting of Ahmaud Arbery as he exercised in his own neighborhood. It is about me losing sleep because I cannot rest until I hear the sound of my brother’s truck in the driveway, so that way I know that he made it home safe. It is about the realization that what happened to Breonna Taylor could have easily happened to my sister, to my cousins or to any of my friends. It is about the fact that the murder of George Floyd could have been my dad, my granddad or any of my uncles. It is about the constant dehumanization of black and brown people in this country throughout its history.
There are people in cages right now at the southern border of our country. Literal cages! The indigenous people of this country have been reduced to living on reservations after having their land pillaged, and their communities destroyed, diseased and massacred. I boldly stand before you today to say that enough is enough.
My skin color is not a weapon. My blackness is not a disability or a handicap. My natural hair will not be policed.
My black is strong, intelligent, beautiful, inspirational, relentless, audacious, magical and powerful.
I truly am my ancestors’ wildest dream. I stand before you today as a queer person of color that declares not only do black lives matter, but all black lives matter. LGBTQ black lives matter, poor black lives, rich black lives, educated black lives, under qualified black lives, homeless black lives, young black lives, elderly black lives, and black lives that depend on housing assistance, EBT, SNAP, and weekly benefits. Black lives more than matter. Black lives are important, black lives are beloved, black lives are needed and black lives are so worthy.
So on today, I want you to know that if you feel invisible in this world, I see you.
If you feel invalid, I value you.
And if you think that no one loves you, I love you. I see you, because I recognize your humanity. I value you, because your humanity is important to me. I love you, because your humanity is vital to the success of this community, to this country and to this world.
We cannot sit idly by anymore, as systemic racism runs rampant. I cannot stress enough how important it is to vote. Your vote does matter.
Our people have suffered through being sprayed with water hoses, dog attacks, beatings and arsons during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement to have our voices heard in the government. Now is not the time to sit by and think that your vote does not matter. I get excited every time I get to vote, and I am very appreciative of my ancestors for paving the way for my civil liberty.
Change starts here at home y’all. We should be voting in local and state elections as well as in our national election. There is a primary election this Tuesday, on the 23, for the US Senate and the House of Representatives. Please make it your business to head to the polls on Tuesday.
It’s not enough to say, ‘Well, I have black and brown friends, spouses and coworkers that I love.’ What are you doing to stand up for those who are marginalized in your life? Are you advocating for them when they are not in your presence? Are you speaking up against those in your circle when they speak racist rhetoric?
To quote Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Today’s event is not a cure-all by any means, but it will spark long overdue conversations about the inequalities that minorities face on a daily basis in this community and in this country. We are calling for unity in our community today. We cannot fight this fight against discrimination, prejudice, injustice and racism alone.
In the words of Frederick Douglas, “I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” When you walk today, walk for a better world for yourself, for your loved ones and for humanity as a whole. It is going to take everyone’s relentless efforts to combat the evils that are the foundation of this country. America has an ugly history, but it has the potential for a bright, beautiful and inclusive future. It might not happen in our lifetime, but let today be a catalyst that propels us towards a community, a country and a world free of hate and full of incredible amounts of love, peace and unity.”
After all the speeches were made, protesters formed a line and marched on Virginia Avenue from 5th Street to 8th Street and back around. Police officers stopped traffic so that protestors could round the block, and were present for the entire event.
More pictures of the event can be found on The News Progress Facebook page.