Activists and allies of all races, ages and genders have a chance to come together this weekend.
A peaceful protest in support of the Black community is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, June 7 at Olde City Park, 112 S. Ballard Ave.
The event will feature spoken-word poets, pastors and the playing of the Black national anthem. Event organizers are also planning a “say their names” portion in which leaders will say the names of Black victims of police brutality, and protestors will repeat their names back.
An American Sign Language certified interpreter will also attend.
Leaders are promoting a sense of peace; the protest will be limited to Olde City Park to prevent obstructing traffic or littering. They also plan to pick up trash around the park and Ballard Avenue afterwards.
“It’ll give people who are hesitant [to protest] a chance to meet people they wouldn’t normally have met,” said Emily Bell, one of the event organizers. “They wouldn’t have this opportunity sitting at home.”
She was inspired by the protests in Flint, Mich., and wanted to give Wylie-area residents a similar chance to speak out against racism. Wylie Police Department was supportive when she reached out, and Bell has spent the past week organizing.
According to Bell, police officers – including Chief Anthony Henderson – will attend to offer support, get to know the community and keep protestors safe.
“We have spoken with the group hosting this event to ensure a peaceful and safe gathering. Officers will be on hand to protect citizens’ first amendment rights as well as the rights of businesses and property owners,” said Sgt. Donald English. “We value the partnership we have always had with our citizens as we work together to help ensure the safety of our community.”
Attendees are welcome to bring signs, and face masks are encouraged to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Salon by the Park, where Bell works, is the official host of the protest. This past week Arlene Gyimah, a 2017 Wylie High School graduate and current student at University of Texas at Dallas, joined them.
Gyimah studies political science at UTD and wanted to put her expertise in action. She contacted the Wylie police and they directed her to Bell, who enthusiastically embraced her help.
In addition to getting speakers lined up, the two women are also planning ways to keep attendees safe. They will have water, face masks and hand sanitizer available throughout the park, and officers and event organizers will mingle to quell any racist remarks or threats of violence.
This protest is especially personal for Gyimah. As a Black student who lived in Wylie for most of her life, she experienced racism from her classmates throughout middle and high school.
“There are students with the same story as me. This event is so important because it really binds us all together,” she said. “Wylie hasn’t had a history of speaking out. We’re overjoyed that this is finally happening.”
She recommends that people also donate to organizations that help the Black community and sign petitions that call for structural change. While posting support on social media is great, Gyimah noted, it’s meaningless without action.
Both women hope that people who don’t yet consider themselves activists attend the protest too. Hateful comments and violence will not be tolerated, but genuine curiosity on how to help is welcome.
According to Gyimah, the most helpful thing would be for white protestors to listen to their Black neighbors.
“A lot of times, [white] people bring up other inequalities. It’s very tone deaf,” she said. “Black people are the ones experiencing this type of oppression, and white people don’t understand it to that level. You have to allow yourself to listen. Keep an open mind and be an advocate. Donate and petition. Talk to your parents – some of our parents have ideals we don’t agree with, but we need to talk to them and speak about issues relative to them. If you talk about police violence, frame it as ‘what if this was me?’ If you hear something racist, speak up. Most importantly, take action. Don’t just vote for the color you always vote for. Also, vote in local elections.”
By Morgan Howard • [email protected]