Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis over a month ago, there have been protests and rallies all around the country.
On Monday, June 8, members of the Pittsburg community and students and staff of Pittsburg State gathered for a Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally at Immigrant Park in downtown Pittsburg.
Having not only community officials but Pittsburg State officials attend the rally meant a lot to D’André Phillips, President of the Black Student Association and senior in math education.
“I think the rally went great,” Phillips said. “Better than expected primarily because we had a lot of community members there including President Scott was which meant so much to me. Black Lives Matter movement is really a time for Americans to start to correct there racial disparities that we have within our communities individually and the fact that we have President Scott specifically there representing PSU, it meant a lot to me because I go to this college and it just validates the point that my college cares about people of color as well as the rest of their students.”
Courtylnn Rose, Pittsburg State graduate, thought the rally went “great.”
“…Honestly, I think there was a lot of people that came out to show their support,” Rose said. “I hope that all of the speeches really resonated with everyone else as well as they resonated with me. So, all in all I think it was a good turn out and it’s a good start.”
Halyee Valley, who helped organize the rally, was happy to see people attend the rally and show their support of the BLM movement.
“I think that it went exceedingly well,” Valley said. “There was a lot of community support and there was a good mix of people in the crowd. It wasn’t just all one group. I think that shows that throughout Pittsburg all different kinds of people actually care about this cause and everybody who showed up was very supportive, very peaceful and I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.”
Though he admits that some good came out of the rally, PSU student Joseph Shane felt like the rally was taken over by the City of Pittsburg and by the Pittsburg Police Department.
“…I guess first I’d like to just start by saying that my opinion are just mine and mine alone and they’re not a reflection of my employer or the university or any of the groups I’m associated with,” Shane said. “As far as the peace rally… goes, I do think that it was very successful in a lot of ways. The speeches were beautiful and moving. We had an excellent turn out. At the same time, in many ways the rally itself was very much co-opted by city officials and the Pittsburg PD. In our attempts as organizers to simply be as transparent as possible and let them know everything that was going on, I think that they kind of took advantage of our good will… and used the information that we gave them in a way to really undermine the true message of the movement. First of all, they suggested we stage at Immigrant Park, that came from the Pittsburg Police Department. Everything they did was under the pretense that it was for our safety and of course we wanted to work with them as closely as possible… One of the things that really kind of broke that trust was the fact that even though we had told them all our plans the Pittsburg PD installed three cameras in a very covert way literally the weekend before the event was to take place… and they did not talk to us about that at all… We approached the Chief of Police for the City of Pittsburg about that and he once again reiterated that that was for our safety but we pointed out that none of the cameras were facing any of the roads they were all directed… at the civilians and it was only after we brought up the fact that we knew they installed cameras that they came out, first of all the chief of police came out and spoke with us, and then they installed a third camera that was actually in plain view that everybody could see. Another thing that really, I feel like undermined the whole movement was the fact that we were restricted to a two-block area right next to the police station and traffic was… directed around us. I think the fact that there was such a heavy police presence out there really deterred a lot of people, other than the people who already supported the movement, anybody else… the majority of the population who maybe we wouldn’t normally come into contact with were really directed around us so that they wouldn’t even see our signs; they wouldn’t witness the protest itself.”
There are racially motivated incidents that occur in Pittsburg. Tropical Sno was recently called out for having a flavor called ‘Burning Noose.’ Earlier this month, a video surfaced on Twitter of a former Pittsburg State student yelling ‘white power’ and using racial slurs.
“…Pittsburg is a small community and I’m not saying that we don’t have race incidents, which wouldn’t be true, but the fact is our issue isn’t directly with the police department within Pittsburg,” Phillips said. “Yeah, there are things we can correct and get established such as the communication with the community, but this police brutality incident was with the Minneapolis Police Department. So, we gotta understand that this rally was so that we can build that relationship so that way incidents like that won’t occur in Pittsburg. So, I just don’t want this narrative that this is an us versus them type of movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is to emphasize that we want to end police brutality incidents happening to men and women of color. But the only way to truly end those incidents is when we have those conversations and when we have leaders such as the police chief of both PSU and the city and the audience listening directly to the community members. For the people saying that this was just a show, I mean I hate that people would feel that way but it’s funny. Because of that rally we actually have talked with the police chief and we’re creating committees and we’re gonna have a lot of big moves coming out here in the future that I can’t say just quite yet. But it wasn’t just a Black Lives Matter moment, it’s a Black Lives Matter movement and I want people to understand that we are continuing to create those events to make sure our voices are heard. Sometimes you might not see change immediately but it’s still happening. I just want people to understand that. But we won’t too long for change to happen either.”
According to Phillips, change is already being seen because of the protests and rallies.
“I mean honestly it’s already starting to spark the conversation of change, different companies and different brands start to change even mascots, they change things that may have been looked at as a thing against race,” Phillips said. “The great thing is we’re having this conversation and we’re actually talking about things and people are putting forth effort to correct things in their past. I believe everyone deserves a chance to correct themselves and when we acknowledge that companies may have had race incidents in the past, you can’t hold them at fault entirely. You gotta allow them an opportunity to correct their actions and then, only then, we can actually judge them by their character. So, as long as all these companies and businesses are putting forth effort to show that they are against these race motivated incidents then we can start to come together as a community.”
Change is happening every day. People all over the United States are standing in support of the BLM movement and celebrities are being called out for doing blackface and using racial slurs while popular brands are coming under fire as well.
“I’m hoping to see real changes, not just performances or demonstrations, really going above and beyond just showing up for one day and getting legislation passed.., seeing reform in our communities for the better..,” Valley said.
Rose hopes that the rallies will “shine a light on the injustices that Black people in America have to deal with” in their everyday lives.
“…I hope people really are listening and know the premise behind why we are marching,” Rose said. “…There’s a reason behind everything. It’s not just because we want to riot, and a lot of the riots aren’t even incited by Black people. They’re incited by a lot of other organizations some extremist organizations and things like that. So, I just hope people really focus on the reasons why we’re marching and know that’s just the injustices that we face every day that we’re trying to shine a light on.”
Rose also hopes that other people get involved and work to incite change.
“…I just hope that people really felt the power and the premise about why we’re marching… because it was a really powerful day,” Rose said. “I hope everyone felt how powerful it was and that they use that to fuel them to keep this momentum going.”
Protests and rallies are continuing to take place all around the country with no end in sight.
“…I want to emphasize that it’s not a Black Lives Matter moment, it’s a Black Lives Matter movement and we appreciate the lives of everyone but we can’t say all lives matter until we show that Black Lives Matter as well..,” Phillips said.