Twelve days ago my friend, Pat Reed, suggested we plan a march for racial justice in Erie. I jumped in without hesitation. I thought, Okay, there will be maybe 20 of us to show up marching down the street with our signs through suburban Erie, being ignored or laughed at, but a worthy purpose, regardless.
Within one day, our planning group blew up in size. As word got out, we went from a relatively small group of 6 people to nearly 60 Erie advocates for change. I had gone to bed and awoke to a post asking about the march on a different page — from a complete stranger. An early indicator that our small Erie march may end up bigger than we thought. It started with one small post by a woman who was ready to march alone, and less than 24 hours later our planning group became 60. We thought, Okay maybe 100 people will show up. But we had still underestimated our small town.
Saturday, June 13th 1,000 people showed up
in Erie Colorado to Stand in Solidarity
Against Racial Injustice.
June 13th, 2020 in Erie was the day ‘suburbia’ came out and said; they do not support the injustices this nation continues to put forth. They too, want to see change.
1,000 residents of Erie, including the Mayor, the entire Board of Trustees, and the Police Chief, marched through the town, showing up to say they believe there is a better way.
Community organizers, Mecca Scott and Justin Brooks helped direct the mission and the meaning behind the march, with all planning done through chat, email, phone, and Zoom. Artists and craftspeople stepped up to donate labor and services in support of the cause. Erie Police Chief, Kim Stewart wrote a powerful statement in regards to how she wants to see policing done in Erie. Local neighbors and students spoke to us of living in Erie, Colorado as a teen, as a family, and you guessed it, as a neighbor. The Erie Library was there with books, and organizers provided reading suggestions for further education on the movement. Rainbow flags were waved in honor of Pride Month. We saw each other for a few hours in one day and I think it may have been life-changing for all of us.
I think 1000 people fell in love with each other on Saturday.
Acknowledging that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, the event required participants to wear masks to participate, and from our observations, 99.9% of attendees did.
From the march, a movement was born called Being Better Neighbors: Standing in Solidarity Against Racial Injustice. The group has grown to over 500 members as of today. The idea is to hold future actions surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and being better neighbors, like porchfront talks, book readings, movie nights, and trips to The Blair Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points and the Black American West Museum. The movement plans to support diversity programs for our schools, and to promote mental and emotional health for our community.
I wanted to be conservative in my crowd numbers, lest I overestimate, and honestly, I could not see how big the crowd was. Continuously throughout the event, my estimate for the number of participants changed, as I realized it was much bigger than I thought. This incredible drone footage captured from above by local resident Bob Reed shows the enormous crowd marching. I decided to measure the distance on a tracker and it came out to one mile long. Erie had a march for Racial Justice that extended one mile long. (It is good to note, that people also maintained a healthy social distance.) It was much, much bigger than anticipated. We were able to spend this one, single day together in solidarity, outdoors, because everyone wore a mask, everyone respected each other, and everyone had a common goal.
After the event, while I was obsessing over counting how many people were there, I started to notice stories popping up in our group. Stories from local residents telling us how they so valued this march – because they no longer felt unsafe in our community.
Once again, my privilege was checked.
Saturday, June 13th had a real-life impact in Erie, Colorado. Neighbors who might have felt afraid before felt welcomed. It brought the community together in such a positive and connected way. It made people feel proud to live here and want to be part of making the neighborhood better.
Looking at Erie as just another majority-white suburban neighborhood would not give you insight into who lives there. Just like looking at someone with a different pigmentation doesn’t tell us who they are. Erie, Colorado showed us that typecasting a community or a person means missing out on all they have to offer, and in too many cases can lead to deadly results. Being a Better Neighbor means getting to know one another.
THE VOICES OF THE COMMUNITY:
I am so sad that I wasn’t able to be there. I’m glad there were so many there to support this! My kids have experienced racial bullying this year and also through school here in Erie. Even I have had some experiences with racism here in Erie. I was starting to feel like, I didn’t know why I was still in this town and letting my kids grow up here. But this, this makes me have so much hope for change.
I just want to take a minute to say how proud I am of Erie. Our family is one of the few minority families in Erie. While our experience here has been mostly positive, we have had a few issues that made my stomach turn. The thing that has become very apparent these last few days is that while there may not be many minorities, we are absolutely not alone! The town definitely has our back, and words cannot express how much this means to us.
To Mayor Carroll, Chief Stewart and the entire BOT, your leadership during this time has been amazing! While we all tend to focus on federal elections, events like these remind us how important local elections really are.
Justin and Mecca…I can’t find the right words to express how much your voices mean to our family. The community is so incredibly lucky to have you both.
My heart is full and I thank you all!
-Haley Webster Sema
My family and I have lived in Erie for 4 years. My husband is from New York his mother is Peruvian and his father is German. I am a 6th generation Colorado native. When people want to know my cultural background I tell them I am American born and raised here, I am Mexican American, Native American, Spanish and French. We have two children.
Growing up in this beautiful state of Colorado as a brown person in the small town of Gypsum was very HARD. When I lived in Gypsum it was a predominately white farming community, there was no black families in our town and a very small number of brown families. I was called these horrible names quite often:
Being a part of the march on Saturday opened my eyes to how much I love this place and how I don’t have to feel alone, that me and my family can be accepted for who we are. After Saturday, I feel safe to share what my family and I having been walking through for the past year.
My daughter came out to my husband and I last summer. (She is the beautiful young lady in this picture holding a protest sign that she made herself. I have her permission to share this part of her story) I am a Kids Ministry Director for our church. She was terrified to tell me that she is gay, but she courageously came out, she bursted into tears and said, “Mom you are not going to love me anymore and neither are your church people.” I did what I knew in my heart God would do and that would be to meet my daughter with love and grace. Isn’t that what He does with ALL of us?
I told my daughter that there is nothing that would ever change my love for her, I love her no matter what and so does God. Not every Christian responds this way and it breaks my heart! I’m doing my best to stand firm on leading people within my church community to respond with love and grace and for them to realize that you don’t lose your faith when you love your gay child or your gay friend or gay neighbor. Our family has gone through ups and downs this past year. We had fears of judgment, fear that other parents don’t want their kids hanging around my gay daughter. We’ve learned so much from our confident daughter, my husband and I are embracing this journey.
Sophia faces challenges at school, she has been called horrible names in regards to her skin color and her sexuality by kids who say they are Christians, sometimes she comes home heart broken, asking the questions: “Why are kids so mean?” And “how can they call themselves a Christian and then treat me like dirt?”
Change needs to happen in our schools and our churches. I’m ready to do what it takes to help create a safe place for my daughter to learn and grow. Saturday’s march has ignited a passion in me to take action and serve our community. To ALL of you who showed up on Saturday, thank you for showing me what community looks like!! I felt the love and support with your presence and so did my family! I love this place!!
I wanted to share what yesterday’s march meant to me. It was my first march/protest. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. I feel honored to have been a part of something bigger and so incredibly important. I was moved to tears as we marched and chanted. Seeing all those people in solidarity brought me feelings of hope for our country. My oldest adult son is biracial and endured police profiling and peer discrimination/racism when we lived in Texas. This movement is not only important to my family for him but to all POC around the world. As his mother, I want to be his ally as well as every POC’s ally. I am learning, reflecting, and trying to take action in whatever way I can every day. Thank you to everyone that showed up and the organizers. I can’t express enough what a moving, uplifting, and joyous experience it was for me. Let’s keep this going! I STAND WITH YOU.
THANK YOU to all the Erie residents that SHOWED UP to let your VOICES BE HEARD! My heart is full and I’m still beaming so brightly and my eyes are watering as I look back at yesterday’s March. Being part of the 8% minority in this town, the amount of people that showed up spoke volumes and gave me hope that we are moving forward in the right direction. I know it doesn’t end here though. We still have a lot of work to do. I was happy to see many families out with their kids because showing them and teaching them at a young age about equality, acceptance, and having a voice will make for a brighter future. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible!
Being a very small part of this march brought a huge amount of joy into my heart bucket. I have my own struggles with where I belong when it comes to race. I was adopted when I was three from El Salvador and was stripped of my native language, culture, and race.
I was raised in a biracial family which I didn’t comprehend as I was told continually told I was white. It never made sense to me as I was different in every way possible. I had a large Afro, dark skin and my body shape was so different than all the other girls. People, would continually touch my hair, burn my hair, cut my hair, and make jokes about the curl and size. Most people would let me know how nice my tan was and asked if I was Polynesian.
My mom entered me into Polynesian dance lessons and would allow people to think I was Polynesian. She never would allow me to question or ask about my birth home. It sent the message that I wasn’t okay to be Spanish yet being Polynesian was okay. During school years I learned I was the wrong brown as I was a disgrace to my heritage.
It wasn’t until my best friend’s family said that I missed the boat to Hawaii and it didn’t matter where I came from as long as I ended up in their home. I look at my friends that I made in 8th grade and we each come from a different part of the world. We were called the Ethnic beauties and it felt good to have friends that looked kinda like me. I feel like my whole life I have run from my culture and race. It’s a weird place for me as the older I have gotten the more I wish I was more. Fast forward to yesterday and all I can say is that it felt like home. It felt like I was seen and included for a cause that is so much bigger than me. A cause that has never made sense to me as I live my life with kindness and love. I don’t understand the hate that others have for humans that are different… yet if we think about it we should want these differences and diversity as it brings so much more to our society.
I have so much to learn and I can’t wait to see the next chapter in this book. Thank you to each one you for creating an amazing event that hopefully, will continue to touch all of our lives.
Much love from my heart to yours
Elena C Clark
I just have to say my family was blown away on Saturday. I was literally brought to tears as we walked with our community. We are a multiracial family. Between my husband and I, our boys are black, white, Mexican and Native American. Moving to Erie, less than a year ago, when previously living in LA, was a big shift. Obviously, the lack of diversity is something every minority family recognizes and is concerned about. I can’t say enough how much this march meant to us. For the community, the teachers, the mayor and the chief of police to show up and vow to make changes for equality, it is so encouraging! Thank you for organizing the March. This unfortunately, is NOT happening in many communities across the country. My boys needed this, our whole family needed this.
Laci Grace Williams
PHOTOS, VIDEOS AND PREVIOUS COVERAGE
FB Live stream of the entire event provided by the publisher of YS, (and yeah, we know our Publisher needs a stick to hold the camera…).
Black Sparrow Media is to improve the world we live in through the use of creative and engaging films or videos. Black Sparrow Media is advocating for the current Black Lives Matter revolution taking place worldwide through a Black Voices Movement initiative project aimed at the local level. Black Sparrow Media believes in the power of uplifting and sharing Black voices and passions, especially during this time. Black Sparrow Media is committing to achieve the aspirations of this project with a fundraising goal of $9,000 to represent the nine minutes it took the Minneapolis PD to murder George Floyd. Press Release on Black Voices Movement.
Drone Coverage by Bob Reed
See more photos here
Photos provided by George Hudetz, Chelsea Campbell, Christina Pisano, Danny Trevino and Community!
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