CUBA, NY — It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child.
In the Village of Cuba, it took five friends from Cuba Rushford High School to bring about Wednesday’s Black Lives Matter protest march. The five are 17-year-old Rushford resident Angelina Belcer and 18-year-old Cuba residents Levi Peacock, Avery Saulter, Connor Whitney and Bailey Rouse.
Approximately 60 people of various ages gathered at the Cuba Circulating Library and marched east on East Main Street, south on Grace Street, continued straight onto Bishop Street, turned west on Stevens Avenue, turned north on South Street, crossed another intersection onto Genesee Street and stopped at Genesee Park.
Cuba Police Chief Dustin Burch opened the event by welcoming the protestors, giving directions on the march route and instructing people to remain calm.
Marchers followed one police car, and another police car followed them.
Those marching chanted “Black lives matter”; “No justice, no peace,” and "How many minutes? Nine minutes.”
In the park, Cuba-Rushford teacher Jason Stupp told the crowd, “Any teacher will tell you it gets hard to remember what our purpose is as educators. But seeing everybody out here tonight and seeing how young this crowd is, it reminds me exactly what my purpose is. My purpose and the purpose of all those that stand with me is to pass the torch down onto you all, so that you can be the change.”
Suzanne Lierl Krull, executive director of the Cuba Cultural Center, expressed her excitement to those gathered.
“It doesn’t matter if there are 60 of us here or a thousand of us here,” Krull said. “What you have accomplished tonight is breathtaking.”
She encouraged the attendees to continue that work.
After Krull and Stupp spoke, the protestors observed nine minutes of silence, recognizing the time George Floyd was under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer before his life ended.
When the five teen planners asked if anyone else wanted to speak, Rihana Burciaga, 18, of Cuba, gave closing remarks.
“I am proud to say that I’m part of a generation that’s happy to stand up,” Burciaga said. “Being here today really helped prove that, no matter where you come from, you stand up for yourself.”
Before the event began, Peacock told TAPinto Greater Olean that Belcer had come up with the idea of organizing the march.
And Belcer explained, “I had noticed nearby towns, including Wellsville and Olean, organizing protests and marches, so I thought, ‘Why not Cuba?’ I wanted to express support for our black community members and for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as bring us all together and show that we stand as one.”
Peacock added, “We just really thought that, even though Cuba is a small town, small communities need to have these conversations.”
At the end of the march, Belcer said she thought the successful turnout could have resulted from police support of the event.
And Burciaga told TAPinto Greater Olean, “I was a little worried about the reaction we’d get. But now that we’ve had the chance to be here, I’m really happy to receive the love and support of all races in this community.”
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