SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The second of three protests planned in Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Saturday was somewhat smaller than Thursday's student-driven march, but it was no less passionate. Many of the organizers on Saturday were Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School alumni who graduated years ago and in their adulthood believe they have seen too many lives end tragically.
There was powerful symbolism in the march from the high school to the historic Shady Rest Clubhouse, the site of America's first black-owned golf course and the one-time home of John Matthew Shippen, America's first golf professional of any race.
The event was organized by Marklyn Johnson, Kate Lamendola, Vanessa Handy, and Ashley McCoy. Jelani Jackson, Sade Emoni and Kayla Sky led the "Black National Anthem. The audience heard poems from Racquel Romans-Henry, Haykley Kumpf (read Kate Lamendola) and "The Average Black Girl," written by Ernestine Johnson and read by Chloe Alce. Tyla Jones-Champion gave a history of the Shady Rest Clubhouse. Guest speakers were Bianca Callender, Marklyn Johnson, Denise Horn, and Pastor Roy Dockery.
The quotes were personal, poignant and, at times, angry.
- "We are here to make change. When will we see words come to life?"
- "No more picking out the bad fruit. It's time to uproot the whole damn tree."
- "It takes a million voices to hear one black man scream, 'I can't breathe'."
- "My daughter wants to by me a bullet proof vest for Father's Day."
- "Whitney Houston sang, 'I believe that children are our future... let them lead the way."
- "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."
- "When Kaepernick kneeled, they said it's not time. When is the time?"
- "Don't listen to respond. Listen to learn and understand."
- "It's like peeling an onion. By the time you get to the core, you cry... Systematic racism is a disease."
- "When the masks come off, I want to see your smiling faces come to life."
- "Black Lives Matter!"
Scotch Plains Township officials were well represented: Mayor Al Smith, Councilman Roc White, Councilman Ted Spera, Township Manager Al Mirabella, and Deputy Manager Margaret Heisey. Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, Councilman Anthony Carter, and Councilwoman Erin McElroy-Barker represented the Borough. Members of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood police departments were on hand at what was a passionate, yet peaceful, protest.
"There have been too many reprehensible deaths," Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith said: "The young people who have attended the rallies are the ones who will lead the way."
"Your lives matter to me," Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr told the crowd.
Fanwood Councilman's Anthony Carter message to young people was one of education.
"If you need help, call me," Carter said as he gave his phone number. "There are people who can make calls and help you."
As has happened at other protests, there was an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence to mark the amount of time that a police officer kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It's a symbolic and excruciatingly long period of time that brings many to tears.
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