MONTCLAIR, NJ - More than 4000 people gathered in Montcair's Rand Park on Sunday to protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Since then, protests have been sparked across the world for justice and accountability.
Organized by students at Montclair High School, the rally had notable attendees, including Dr. Steve Adubato and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. The student-organizers stated that the crowd far exceeded their expectations, as they had brought nametags for 4000 and had run out.
At the start of the gathering, people gathered to participate in a brief program that included spoken word, dance, singing and speeches by students. The most shocking portion of the program, included quotes from Montclair high school students about their experiences with race and racism in the Montclair Public Schools.
Many of the students who read from a paper, detailed the personal experiences of racial inequality in Montclair, being harassed by peers or being told they were "talking like a slave.”
Some expressed that local law enforcement and educational institutions fell short in addressing racial issues in the community. Many others expressed that this is an opportunity to look at racial inequities around the globe and take measures to change it.
One student speaker said, "When we chant, we say more justice, more peace and we put that into the air. We don't focus on what we already have, which is a world of unjust everything. So it starts with us individually, check what we say to each other, how we love each other. It starts with us one-on-one and check everybody, your family, your friends, and yourself."
At the end of the program, students marched through Montclair, past Nishuane School and back around to the high school. They chanted, "More Justice, More Peace and Black Lives Matter," as they marched through the community.
A few of the quotes from the Montclair High School students were as follows:
"My math teacher once told me not to talk like a slave."
"Racism in this town is to be slapped in the face, but sent to the office for making someone feel compelled to harm you."
"When I told my teacher that people in my class were making me feel bad about my blackness he told me that he just needed to teach his class and that I should try to be less angry when I show up."
"A staff member would continuously give detention to students of color but choose to ignore when a white student arrive to class significantly later."
"My math teacher came over to where the four black kids in the class were sitting and said that it smelled like fried chicken."
"Some of the teachers don't put in any effort to even know me and my friends' names."
"When we were reading 'Beloved' in class, my teacher asked if anyone would be uncomfortable if she read the n-word. I was the only black person in the class and I raised my hand but they ignored me and did it anyway."
"My three black girlfriends and I were leaving from the basketball game against MKA [Montclair Kimberley Academy] in February when a group of white MKA boys drove past us and yelled at us to go get our food stamps."
"Last year I had a video of boys on the baseball team screaming 'F*#k n*ggers, F*#k n*ggers, F*#k n*ggers!' At first, I tried talking to a senior on the baseball team about it to see if there was a way to address the racial culture on the baseball team everyone knows about, but instead, I was harassed and intimidated by members of the team every day for the rest of the year. They forced me into silenced [sic] to me, but I still want my f*#@ing justice. I will be silent no more."
"I hate it my skin because I stood out on my team and when we played teams that were mostly white they would say really racist things to me, like they had to 'unlock me.' My teammates would just be silent on the bus back when I kept my head down about it."