Unless they’ve been involved in some strenuous exercise or working extremely hard at something, those two words should very rarely come out of the mouth of a child. Especially in regards to issues like police brutality, racial inequality and social injustice.
Those words, however, are exactly how 14-year-old Sammia Allen said she feels as she addressed the crowd Saturday at the Yazoo United Peaceful Protest rally held at Wardell Leach Complex. It’s unfortunate and saddening because she shouldn’t know what it means to be tired in relation to this cause. She hasn’t been here long enough. But that’s exactly how the soon-to-be high school student feels and she’s not alone.
The nation is in an uproar stemming from the tragic death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Additionally, officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane have all be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
More than 150 concerned citizens attended the rally organized by Carl Tart, Donjala Smith-Thomas and Cynthia Walker in solidarity with protests around the country.
Their mission? To bring about continued awareness and create open lines of communication to address the systematic racism that exists in our country and to be vessels of change. A brief program was held where participants were allowed to address the crowd before marching from Wardell Leach Complex to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and onto Willie Morris Parkway.
As the crowd marched, echoes of “We Shall Overcome”; “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”; and “No Justice, No Peace” filled the air. They carried signs calling for peace, love and justice for Ahmaud. They wore shirts and masks that read “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe”. Some walked, some rode bicycles others even followed along in their vehicles. But they were all together and on one accord.
“We set a positive tone for Yazoo as far as unity today,” said Walker. “This nation has been put in a unique situation. We had people come out from all walks of life, from different races. That is a reflection of being unified. It’s time to stand up for what is right. And to stand up for what’s right, you don’t see color. You only see R-I-G-H-T. To see all these people standing together and crying together and being a part of a something positive, there is a move that Yazoo City is going to be a part of. This was an effort to invite the city to join the community. The City got involved. The Mayor’s office, the Fire Department and the Police. Parks and Recreation showed up big for us. The County gave support. Jacob Sherriff and his guys. When you see all of those components come together, that’s when God is pleased.”
Tart also agreed with Walker’s sentiments. “It was important to organize this rally in Yazoo City because, either by force or by choice, this has become a predominately African-American town and we do face certain injustices because of our blackness everyday,” said Tart. “I just want people to know that inequality has no place here in Yazoo City. The same resources that people get in Madison County, in Oxford, in Gulfport and Southhaven, we should be getting those same resources here. We should be getting the same attitudes, the same justice here in Yazoo City for our citizens and our children.”
Of all the words uttered Saturday, the two aforementioned words spoken by Allen may have been the most telling and powerful. “There is no reason we should be discriminated against because of our skin color, something we can’t control,” she added. “It’s unfair and I’m standing for change.”
For Allen’s mother, Smith-Thomas, the events that have been occurring around the country hit particularly close to home.
“This is very personal to me because I’ve witnessed it firsthand,” said Smith-Thomas. “My brother and my two nephews in Jackson were walking home from playing basketball at a local gym when it started raining. They began running home but were stopped by police and forced at gunpoint to lie on the ground, faces in the mud, while they were handcuffed. So to have law enforcement walk with us and join in this stand against police brutality, racial profiling and injustice means a lot. It gives me hope.”
While efforts like this are absolutely necessary if change is ever going to come, there were two key elements missing from Saturday’s rally: the white community and the young adult population.
“I think the turnout [today] was amazing, but we need to do something about our young people,” said Tart. “For this to happen to someone so young and for the countless actions to happen to mostly people under 30 years old, I should have seen more of a turnout from people under 30. We need to start taking action and be aware of what’s going on.”
When asked how to bring the white community into the conversation, Tart added: “That is part of the change, but we need genuine actions. We need people to actually stand up. I’m going to be honest, I haven’t seen many words from white businesses and white establishments in Yazoo City, and that’s completely disheartening and unsatisfactory at this point. The fact is we provide so much business for this town and so much commerce for this town being a predominately African-American town, but we don’t have a public stance from people in Yazoo City who are not of color. I call on the businesses downtown. I call on The Yazoo Herald. I calAl on Mr. Helton, who runs businesses on the highway and downtown. Any establishment that is predominately white in Yazoo City, it is time to speak up. It’s time to use your voice and show that you care about this town and the people in it predominately black or not.”