Williamstown Black Lives Matter rally delivers passionate voices for change


Photo Gallery | Black Lives Matter rally at Williams College

WILLIAMSTOWN — With voices raised and hearts united, about 70 people representing many races and age groups brought a Sunday morning Black Lives Matter march to Route 2.

Prior to the march, several speakers offered strong words from the Williams College Paresky Center.

Keirsten Hodgens' original poem provoked murmurs of agreement from the crowd as she spoke. Hodgens is a Williamstown Theater Festival apprentice.

"When is enough, enough," she read. "When the trail of my brothers blood completes a carpet trail for the white man's stride? Why must I fear that my nephew may not make it to see his next birthday? Is it the way he walks? Is it the way a black man talks? Is it in the deep bass rumble of his steps that makes a white man squeal? Is it the vibrant melanin that blinds hearts that don't share the same blood?"

Hodgens said that when she walks the town streets she sees that "nobody looks like me."

"Why do I have to justify why I am here on this earth?" she asked the crowd.

The rally turnout gave her cause for hope, she said, and she offered genuine thanks to those in attendance.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," she said.

Rally organizer Jane Berger owns a small therapy practice in town. As a white person, Berger said that she realized her privilege everyday in that she is able to go about her daily business unchallenged. All people should feel that safety and security, she said, and she added that people needed to stand up against police killings of black people "especially because this is the Berkshires."

"We are here because we are fed up," she said.

Berger's partner Neal Sardana said that people are experiencing emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration.

"These feelings actually cause us to act, push us to actually reflect, push us to actually come together," he said.

"I think black lives have been devalued throughout history," Sardana said.

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Walter Klinger, of Pownal, recalled the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Klinger said that police target those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and that while living in Philadelphia he saw many headlines reporting the deaths of teenaged black youth.

"I am ashamed that 50 years after Martin Luther King, we have to be here," he said. "We have a established a society of murder. Our President sends drones to kill people, people we don't know, but we do know they are not here killing us. We need to disarm the police. Police are shooting people down in the streets."

Theater festival apprentice Christie Jo Mayo said that her hometown is at the southern-most tip of Georgia. As the killing of Trayvon Martin and subsequent actions surrounding the matter publicly unfolded, she wanted to believe that the situation was a fluke, Mayo said. She said she was surprised by the George Zimmerman's acquittal on second-degree murder charges filed as a result of Martin's death.

"Then there was case after case and I started realizing these were not isolated cases," she said.

Mayo referenced a current Atlanta, Ga. investigation. Known on social media as #piedmontpark, the case involves an early morning July 7 discovery of a black male body hanging in the park. The death has reportedly been ruled a suicide but Mayo said that there are numerous reports of increased Ku Klux Klan activity in the Atlanta area.

"That's when the KKK was handing out fliers and that's when a young man was found hanging from a tree," she said.

There are "good, honest, cops," Mayo said.

"But that's not every person and that's not every cop," she said.

Town resident Allison Case said that taking no action against police violence is equal to condoning it.

"I am here to show my disgust and outrage at police violence," she said. "It's one of those situations where if you by you are acquiescing."

Justin Adkins, Williams College Davis Center assistant director, said t hat Williams students of color have told him that they don't feel safe on campus. He said that he is aware of minority families moving into town and moving out within two years because they said they did not feel welcomed.

When speakers concluded, the group marched away from Paresky, chanting and carrying signs. Chants included "Black lives matter" and "We have nothing to lose but our chains." The marchers remained close to each other as they trekked through a steady rain toward the traffic rotary near the Williams Inn.

The impact of social media and the abundance of video has squelched the ability to deny racial violence, said Sardana prior to the march.

"It's kind of hard to deny," he said. "It's right there on camera, on video, right in front of your face."


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