SPARTA, NJ – Billed as a March for Black Lives peaceful protest is scheduled to be held on Saturday, June 20 at noon. The event to be held at Dykstra Park is primarily being organized by two Sparta High School students soon to be senior Rachel Young and graduating senior Olivia Finkeldie.
Young said, “I have come to realize that if you feel strongly about something, you need to go out and do it. Being a high school student I’m realizing that I am the future of this country. All of the young people in this town and nation are the future of America and we will inherit all of its problems and prospects.”
Young said they have “confirmed that the Mayor of Vernon Howard Burrell is interested in speaking as well as Newton’s Theo Sibblies.” She said they will have other “People of Color” speaking.
Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto met with the two organizers to talk about their plans for Saturday.
“We support their right to protest,” Spidaletto said. “Our role is just to make sure people are safe.”
The plan, according to Young is for people to gather in Dykstra Park for speeches and information. After the speeches they will march down Main Street, past the post office and police department then loop back to return to the park for “final words” before departing.
“Growing up in a small town it’s easy to feel as if the things going on in the world don’t affect you,” Young said. “However, seeing the news and the horrible things happening to American citizens for no other reason than the color of their skin is something, that I believe, affects everyone. And when you realize it’s been happening for years upon years, it’s kind of hard to sit still about it all.”
The organizers said the people who organized the Black Lives Matters protests in Jefferson and Newton have supported and helped them in their efforts. Young said they decided to organize the event in Sparta because she and her friends were frustrated that other protests were too far away or conflicted with their school and work schedules.
“I believe it’s safe to say that we all want to live in a world where people aren’t treated differently based off the color of their skin,” Young said. “And that may take years of educating, learning, having hard conversations, and undoing systemic racism. But it’s a worthy struggle that needs to be fought for. We have to start somewhere.”
Young said they hoped to have fundraising at the rally to donate to the Black Lives Matter Movement and NAACP. Anyone attending is reminded to wear a mask, bring water and signs and follow social distancing guidelines.
Editor's note: At the request of organizers the name of the event is changed to "March for Black Lives."