Leaders of the Delaware African American Heritage Council are encouraged by what they saw from the community during Wednesday’s protest, adding there are several ways for people to continue to stay involved in the fight against racism.
On Wednesday evening, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Delaware to protest the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed on Memorial Day when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while attempting to arrest Floyd. The video of Floyd’s death has sparked protests against racism, discrimination, and police brutality nationwide.
The peaceful protest included demonstrations, chants and speeches. City of Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski, who was one of the speakers, said the police department is disgusted by the video of Floyd’s death and pledged continued cooperation and connection with the community.
Delaware City Manager Tom Homan attended the protest on Wednesday at the intersection of Central Avenue and Sandusky Street.
“I saw Delaware residents being heard and feeling safe in our downtown, and the peaceful discussion of issues and ideas,” Homan said. “I also witnessed a Delaware Police Department committed to being responsible, accountable, and connected to the community. Like last Friday’s vigil, this was an important night for our community.”
Tamika Vinson-Reid, the co-chair of the Delaware African American Heritage Council, said Thursday that she’s encouraged by the event’s turnout and the community’s unity.
“Protest is an important form of expression and part of our democratic legacy as it highlights societal problems that demand immediate action,” Vinson-Reid said. “It’s encouraging to see all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities engaged in the movement for racial justice and equality, because we are inextricably bound and impacted.”
She added protests are just the first step and gave several recommendations for what residents seeking racial justice can do next.
“Immediate things you can do for racial justice is acknowledge your implicit bias, those conscious and unconscious prejudices held and microaggressions, indirect often subtle discriminatory remarks or non-verbals against members of a marginalized group such as saying to an Asian person, you speak perfect English or a clutching your handbag in the presence of a black man,” Vinson-Reid said.
She also recommended connecting with people outside your ethnicity, donating to anti-white supremacy work, and contacting elected officials to support criminal justice reform. Vinson-Reid recommended several books, including “How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X Kendi, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, and “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander to learn more about “being an effective ally in the movement.”
“Systemic racism is pervasive, found in every aspect of American life,” Vinson-Reid said.” African Americans are two-and-a-half times more likely to be shot and killed by the police, African American wealth is $5.04 compared to $100 dollars of wealth for white families, the African American unemployment rate averages twice that of white’s unemployment and locally in Delaware, there are no people of color in elected or appointed in the political space. These are all symptoms and evidence of systemic issues. We have to support systemic changes that create equal opportunities.”
Doug Wright, another member of the heritage council, said Floyd’s death had an impact on multitudes of people, black and white.
“What came out of Minneapolis has been very impactful for all of us but particularly traumatizing for members of the African American community,” Wright said. “We can see our friends in George Floyd, and we can see our friends and family in the faces of the officers. Even though it happened states away, people connected with it on a deep level.”
Wright attended the protest and is “encouraged” by what he saw and heard.
“It was a way to respond to what happened in Minneapolis and communicate that as a community we don’t believe that’s acceptable,” he said. “Our expectation is that we will not have that type of experience here … When you look at our community we may not have the police brutality concerns, but there are always ways to improve. The event was very encouraging.”
Wright said he was pleased to see white and black people at the event and was very glad to see so many young people getting involved.
“I’m encouraged by the interest and the support,” he said.
Wright added locals who want to continue to fight for racial justice should follow the Delaware African American Heritage Council on Facebook, consider donating to future programs and events put on by the council, and support efforts to diversify local government.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.