“Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”
These were some of the chants that could be heard from Black Lives Matter supporters as they marched around City Park in recognition of Juneteenth, the day that marks the anniversary of when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to announce the end of the Civil War.
Prior to the march, BLM supporters and Riley County Police Department officers, who were for the most part wearing face masks, gathered in Triangle Park to listen to a lineup of speakers, which included Carl Taylor, a local pastor, who spoke about the importance of peaceful protests and voting.
“We’re looking for all of us to go out and vote on November the third and for us to vote for men and women that carry our values,” Taylor said. “Men and women that look for equality of our entire nation, not just for select groups.”
Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer at K-State, followed Taylor and highlighted his own experience with discrimination as an example of why change is needed.
“In 1977, the police shot my father and did so because he ran,” Samuel said. “No other crime other than running from the police, and that struck a cord in me at the young age of 7 years of life. For years and years and years, I was traumatized by that.”
Samuel also noted efforts being made to improve diversity and inclusion on K-State’s campus, including the creation of a Diversity Advisory Team and the Community Action Talks series, which began earlier this week with a panel discussion about the BLM movement.
Other speakers at the event included Teresa Parks and Jaynae Cole, BLM-event co-organizers, Rebecca Gould, a local BLM worker and supporter, and Fanny Fang, a co-owner at Asian Market who is running for the Rile County commission.
Fang spoke about how each person gets one vote no matter their differences and how it hasn’t always been that way.
“We had to fight hard,” Fang said. “I see a lot of females out here. We had to fight hard to get to where we are to be able to get to go to that voting booth. Even when our black brothers and sisters were technically free, they weren’t considered a full vote. They weren’t even considered a full person.”
Like Taylor, Fang also touched on the power of voting and voting based on values.
“There are people in office right now who have only been there for four years and they have damaged our county, our city, our country for years to come,” Fang said. “That’s how powerful voting is, so we need to make sure that we do our research and vote based on values.”
The march Friday morning was just the first half of planned events in Manhattan. A flashlight ceremony was being planned in the Wefald Pavilion at City Park, beginning at 7 p.m.
Attendees are being asked not to bring flammable objects, such as candles, to the event.
Face masks will be available for those who don’t have one.
The original plans for Manhattan’s 31st annual Juneteenth event, which was scheduled to take place last week, were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.