RANDOLPH, NJ- A quickly organized “Teach in” to combat racism drew a crowd of support to Freedom Park in Randolph on Monday June 1. Amidst a weekend of racial turmoil across the country, Randolph had its own firestorm around the issue erupt on local social media, when screenshots of racist comments in student chat rooms were shared in a Facebook post.
The event was organized by Randolph High School senior Rebecca Tieman, who posted the idea on a whim and less than 24 hours later had a parking lot full of cars to support the cause.
“I felt very angry about the situation on social media this weekend as well as what is going on around the country right now," said Tieman. "I wanted to create this "teach in" to help spread love, peace and acceptance in this town.
Word spread quickly, and someone put Tieman in touch with “Wind of the Spirit” an agency that advocates for immigrants, as well as T’Anna Kimbrough who founded the Morristown chapter of Black Lives Matter. They spoke late last night about a structure as well as how to hold the gathering legally with all the COVID-19 guidelines currently in place.
The lawn area near the entrance to the park was filled mainly with teenagers, while some adults dotted the border of the parking lot to lend their support. Many were holding signs they made to denounce racism, and they sat spread out in small groups socially distanced from one another. Masks were also worn by all.
After Tieman welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, she introduced RHS student Tamia Mitchell to the crowd. Mitchell was hosting an Instagram Live chat room on Friday night when the incident took place. Mitchell began by asking for a moment of silence for George Floyd.
“We are all equal here today, we are all Americans, hate has no place in Randolph NJ,” said Mitchell, “Hate has no place in NJ, in the United States, or anywhere on this planet.”
After cheers to those remarks, she drew laughter when she told everyone to look at the person on their left and then on their right, and tell them you love them.
“You have no idea how much it means to me to see you all here today," said Mitchell. "I love every one of you, and I love everyone in Randolph, in NJ, and in the USA. When I see people hate based on what we look like, and how we were born, that needs to change now.”
After some remarks from Wind of Spirit members, Kimbrough also spoke.
“We all have our own prejudices, and I encourage everyone here to check that,” said Kimbrough. “Talk to yourself, be honest, when you look at pictures of different people, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If they are negative thoughts, that is what you have to check. I will tell you that I also had to check mine.”
Part of the message being spread was a petition to advocate for better education on racism in Randolph Schools. ( Link Below )
“While our initial goal was to show support and teach everyone about what was going on, we also want to promote an anti-racism curriculum in Randolph,” said Tieman. “Currently Randolph does not educate students on diversity and different cultures, and we feel that is really important to do in today’s world. Once kids learn and understand different racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and what other groups of people go through, then everyone’s differences are not as scary.”
The turnout was overwhelming and far more than Tieman had expected.
“It was pretty emotional seeing the line of cars trying to get in here today,” said Tieman’s older sister Rachel. “To see how many people came out to stand against racism and support our community by showing up here. It went off perfectly.”
For Mitchell, it was a comforting moment.
“This is amazing, I am truly, truly pleased by how many people came out today,” said Mitchell. “My heart goes out to everyone here because I know it took courage for people to come. I am very proud of our town; I am amazed to see what happened here today.”
The link to the petition is: https://www.change.org/p/randolph-residents-randolph-love-not-hate-curriculum-implementation?recruiter=1101060038&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition