PATERSON, NJ - Well over 200 people converged in front of Paterson’s Masonic Lodge Saturday to speak out against violence and police brutality, and to support the Black Lives Matter national movement. Many carried the African-American flag with its familiar red, black, and green colors.
Others lifted signs in the air with the three words, “I Can’t Breathe,” symbolizing the heinous murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Marchers, including Mayor Andre Sayegh and City Council members Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Dr. Lillisa Mimms, and Flavio Rivera, walked side-by-side, in unison, down Broadway to Eastside Park. With megaphone in hand, New Jersey Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly served as emcee.
The featured guest for the parade was long-time Patersonian and veteran educator, “Chief” Al Tambua Moody.
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Before the procession, Roz Thompson, a member of the Paterson NAACP branch, said she was excited about the march and the large number of people that came. “We want unity and peace to come to our community,” Thompson stated. “We are sick and tired of racism in our country.”
The masses assembled and stood behind a large NAACP banner held by participants, including Kenneth Sumter, son of New Jersey Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, who also attended the rally.
“I was on an internship near Capetown, South Africa that got cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic,” the DePaul Catholic High School graduate stated. “However, I was there a number of months and was able to see extreme poverty. People lived in shacks in small villages.”
Now a student at the College of St. Rose in Albany, Sumter said his experience helped bolster his desire to help others including his willingness to participate in the march.
“I’m here to participate in the celebration of Juneteenth,” longtime small business owner and well known activist Casey Melvin stated. “Juneteenth is my 4th of July. It’s the declaration of our freedom from slavery and physcial bondage.”
A teacher at the city’s John F. Kennedy High School of ESL Forid Uddin who said his native country is Bangladesh, also participated in the march saying he was there to support Black Lives Matter.
“It’s important that all of us unite and come together,” Eileen Shafer, Superintendent of Paterson Public Schools, who also pounded the pavement said. “As superintendent, I represent 29,000 students in our district. It breaks my heart to see all the social injustice, either in person or on TV. If we make a change, we have to do it together.”
Zatiti Moody, Principal of Paterson’s Great Falls Academy, also joined in the procession with his daughter Khadijah, a student at the University of Miami, at this side.
Other participants in the march included Paterson Police Department members Lieutenant Sharon Easton and Sergeant Dalton Price, as well as Paterson firefighter Roshawn Davis who marched alongside his fellow members of the Bronze Heat, as well as their counterparts in the Bronze Shields.
Onisty Garett, a student at Norman S. Weir Elementary School, said she was happy to support Juneteenth and the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s important to be here today,” the 14-year old stated. “The things that have been happening shouldn’t be happening.”
Leading a contingent of young people from Bloomfield was 14-year-old Kendall Cooper, a former Paterson resident, who said that she was there to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kate Richards of the Paterson Relief Outreach was in front of the Good Shepherd Mission with volunteers from her organization, passing out fresh rolls and hot soup to area residents, when she said she got word that a march was coming.
“I looked down the road and saw a crowd coming and heard them chanting,” Richards said after the entourage had passed. “It was a beautiful display of a peaceful protest. It brought tears to my eyes. Hopefully change will occur in our country in both relationships between people and in legislation.”
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