People packed Crawford Town Park to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest last Wednesday. The demonstration was organized by Pine Bush High School graduates Zachary Huebsch and Christina Fuller. Another rally was held Sunday afternoon in Walden.
The first part of the rally saw many people of different genders, ages and races speak in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25. The 46-year-old black man died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the street.
During the rally, several parents expressed the importance of teaching children not to be racist. Oftentimes children can become racist simply by mirroring their parents’ behavior.
“Us parents need to step up and raise our kids not to know color,” said Jamal Battle, a former student at Pine Bush High School.
Further emphasis was placed on loving people for who they are regardless of their race.
Steven Fuller, a father of children in the Pine Bush Central School District, provided some insight into the plight that black people are facing.
“Black community, we are facing a two-front war,” he said.
Fuller noted that black people are fighting against the ongoing racism that has been happening in addition to several hundred years of oppression that the black community has been dealing with. He illustrated this issue by bringing up two people from the audience who pretended to fight him. One was placed in front of him and the other behind him to show the challenges that many blacks face.
As a white person growing up in Flushing, Queens, Scott Pappalardo was a minority in his high school. For years he wondered why he has benefitted from white privilege, even though he has the same education level as many of his black classmates.
“When I walk in for a job interview I’m looked at as a job applicant. I’m someone looking for employment,” he said. “And when you get a black man that walks in there or a black woman, that’s the first thing they see.”
Following the speeches, demonstrators marched throughout Pine Bush. They wielded signs reading “Treat people with kindness” and “Hate won’t make America great.” Protestors chanted “I can’t breathe” in recognition of George Floyd and “Say their names” to honor black victims of police brutality. Those who participated in the rally were eager to make change.
“In order to change society I must first start with myself,” said Joshua Smith, a youth pastor at Family Church in Middletown and a graduate of Pine Bush High School.
On Sunday, several hundred people gathered at Bradley Park in Walden for a rally that was followed by a march to Municipal Square, as local police stood by and directed traffic.
“Be part of the change! Be the change,” said Isabella Wade, one of the first to speak. “We are the change!”
Another speaker at the Walden rally was Omari Shakur, a Newburgh city councilman who has clashed with City of Newburgh Police in recent months.
“This didn’t just start with George Floyd,” said Shakur, who attended his first rally on April 8, 1968, just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the death of Bobby Hutton, a leader of the Black Panthers who was shot to death by police in Oakland, CA.
Amanda Sepulveda, who has participated in several rallies throughout the region, said the work for change must be ongoing.
“When we go home,” she said, “this doesn’t stop.”