BOWLING GREEN—Nearly 100 people gathered in Bowling Green City Park on Sunday to voice their concern over racism in Pike County.
Tiffany Coleman-Dade organized the rally in order to further the conversation about racism and social injustice started at protest and march in Louisiana last Wednesday. (See the story: ‘Black Lives Matter’ on this page.) That march was a direct result of the recent death of George Floyd while in police custody.
“It is not at all that one life is more important than another,” Coleman-Dade said, “all lives are important, but right now, that’s not the case with everyone. So, we want to shine a little light and have an open dialog on how we can participate in making this a better world for us and for our kids.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. raised his voice on this subject 65 years ago, she added, “and we shouldn’t still be touching on this subject.” She didn’t want the conversation about making this a more open and tolerant world to fade away until the next black man or woman is needlessly killed.
“We are all important under God, and it’s not one color better than another,” she added.
She asked Rev. Henry Ussher from St. Clement Parish to lead the group in prayer. As part of his prayer, he asked that those present learn how to live together in a better way. He added that, “God did not create just one human—because he wanted us to have companions. We need one another at every moment.”
Coleman-Dade had several speakers lined up to speak before the gathering. During the Louisiana rally, she implored those who were not registered to vote, to go and get registered. To make that as simple as possible at her rally, she had a friend bring voter registration forms for people to fill out.
“The way we affect change,” she said, “is by voting. And it’s not just at the national elections, it’s at the local ones that are most important.”
Samantha Grover said she encountered racism after she gave birth to biracial children. Grover, who is white, said that she wished she had stepped in earlier in her life and defended her black friends before she encountered racism herself.
“Racism will not fade,” she added, “until we the people defend one another.” The change starts in the home, by teaching children about history. She asked that parents or guardians take their children to a Civil Rights Museum.
Becky Orf came forward knowing that talking about race can be uncomfortable.
“But being uncomfortable allows us to grow,” she said. “That’s why we need to continue to talk about this issue, so we can continue to grow as a nation, as community, as a family of brothers and sisters.”
Thirty years ago, when she first moved to Bowling Green with her parents, her first friends at school were black. Orf recounted how a teacher warned them about letting their daughter be friends with the two girls because they were black. She didn’t understand the warning because her friends didn’t get into trouble at school.
“As a white mom to children of color I have a unique perspective,” she said, “especially when people don’t know I’m their mom, and they think they can make inappropriate comments. We have to be brave enough to stand against” this type of racism, she added.
Sheriff’s Deputy Brendan McPike spoke out against racism at all law enforcement agencies. He asked that his fellow officers not sit idly by when they encounter racism within their departments. He recounted some events that stood out to him. During a wellness check on some children, an officer from another agency noted that the father did possess weapons and was black, “‘which makes it even worse,’” he recalled her telling him. That stopped him in his tracks.
They cleared the call and the next day McPike and Sheriff Stephen Korte met with the supervisor of the officer who made the statement. “I wasn’t going to let this go,” he said. “We don’t tolerate that kind of negativity.”
People have more in common than they think, he added. And it is upon this common ground that people should come together.
Other speakers, both white and black, relayed their experiences with racism or seeing racism first-hand.
Coleman-Dade added that while listening to the stories being told, she understood that all those gathered in the park on Sunday were there to be part of what affects change.
“We should look at people by what’s in their heart,” she said, “because we’re all made in God’s image.
“I know things have been heated these past few week in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. These are tragedies that should not have occurred,” she said, “and those who murdered these people must be held accountable for the lives they stole.”
Mayor Elect Jim Arico came to the rally to express how much he wants to see change in this community. He said he would keep an open-door policy once he takes office. As part of that, he added, he would like to see more black teachers in the Bowling Green schools.
Coleman-Dade said, “No one is born a racist. People can change with open minds and hearts. That’s what I hope we can accomplish through this effort.”
Once the rally was over, the people helped clean up and then left the park as quietly and calmly as they arrived.