CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham sisters, Alexis and Amanda Williams were among the keynote speakers on Saturday when a "Chatham for Black Lives" event was held outside ECLC school at the Chatham Train Station.
Saturday’s event was good for Chatham," Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz said. "Among the speakers were five residents who shared
their experiences as African-Americans in this largely white suburban community. Hearing of the challenges they’ve faced in the context of our school system and everyday life here was both painful and powerful. We need to take seriously the deeply entrenched and often subtle forms of racial insensitivity and inequity that still permeate our society.
"To do so, we must listen to those amongst us who have experienced this first hand. Today, that is what we did. Gandhi once said 'our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.' The event in Chatham this afternoon was, in part, about moving us forward, however incrementally, in that ennobling direction."
Amanda Williams spoke about fearing that her father would get shot to death by simply going to work.
"I was a kid who did not feel safer in Chatham," she said.
She recalled her 8th-Grade English class in which "To Kill a Mockingbird" was discussed and how she felt that "English teachers treat me like I'm a Rosetta Stone" for how black students think.
She also pointed to the 0.29 diversity score in Chatham schools and asked "Why aren't my teachers teaching us how to be anti-racist? Why don't we have black teachers?"
The afternoon of "solidarity, listening, learning and self-reflection" included remarks from Alexis Williams, the event organizer; Dr. Rev. Sidney Williams Jr.; T'Anna Kimbrough/Ollie Starnes; Ev Francis; Ariele Deshommes; Zandie Sutton; Dr. Okaikor Aryee-Price and Rev. Alton Craig Dunn.