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'What's next?': Black Lives Matter protesters talk future action after 7th straight day of marches in DeKalb

DeKALB – For almost five minutes at a Black Lives Matter Rally on Friday at Hopkins Park, Dominique Gunn talked about the rage and fear she’s felt since the murder of George Floyd.

Then she closed with a question: “What’s next?” She said that was up to the people gathered to figure out.

“That’s not for me to answer,” said Gunn, a 2007 graduate of DeKalb High School who works as a security guard and has been the Black Student Union adviser for 10 years. “I do my part everyday. I’m black 365, so this is my fight my entire life. My question to those marching is: are you silent when the world calms down?”

The protest marked a full week of protests in DeKalb County spurred by the death of Floyd, a black man who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was later fired, arrested and charged with murder, was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before Floyd’s death.

During the march, the group sang happy birthday to Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 Friday. In March, Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was shot eight times to death in her own apartment by Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, police officers in the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky.

Friday night’s Black Lives Matter march marked a full week of daily demonstrations led by mostly young people as protests continued calling for race reform across the county, including policing. Participants passed out information, encouraging each other to register to vote.

Music seemed a theme of the evening, and began as the protesters sang “Lean on Me” as they entered an intersection.

The voice of Sam Cooke as the lyrics to the 1963 Civil Rights-era song “A change is gonna come” echoed from someone’s phone held up to the loud speaker as the crowd marched in silence, fists up in the air, to the intersection of Hillcrest and Sycamore Road on Friday evening.

What began in Hopkins Park weaved its way along Joanne and onto First Street, then Hillcrest and down Sycamore Road, where the march overtook all five lanes and cycled back around after reaching DeKalb Market Square. DeKalb’s police presence was small Friday, with Police Commander Jason Leverton joining the nine-minute kneel at the beginning and the march for a ways.

“We are the future, this is for the future,” chanted the group as they returned to the park around 9:30 p.m. after two and a half hours of taking to the streets.

At Hopkins, Gunn said what she envisions as what’s next is support.

“From my perspective, I work in DeKalb High School, so first thing first is support,” Gunn said. “The black and brown people feel no support in this community. So it’s hard or us to move on a day-to-day basis with the lack of support.”

Gunn used her experience as the BSU advisor as an example. Her co-advisor, Ariel Williams who was also at the rally, said a controversial assembly in 2016 when she was a DHS senior still has an effect to this day. In February of 2016, about 220 DeKalb High School students stayed home from school out of fears after a series of Black History Month assemblies led to online exchanges and threats involving racially charged exchanges and slurs.

“Our story was about hearing the n-word in a predominantly white school and how it affected us as black students,” said Williams, a 2016 DeKalb grad who is now the co-advisor to the BSU and a speech coach at the school.

“A lot of people didn’t really like the fact the n-word was presented, period,” Williams said. “So there were a lot of threats from parents. And after that you could see the lack of support we were getting.”

Williams said she feels excluded at the school — both in 2016 after the assemble, with teachers giving her and other students ‘cold stares’ and currently. She said this year the BSU tried to do a presentation on one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches but got no response from any teachers.

She said she sees a lot of the faces that used to not take the BSU seriously out at the protests this week.

“Now, seeing some people who used to laugh at us and say it’s not that serious, why do we have a BSU?” Williams said. “Now they want to come and support. We just want to see when it’s all said and done, are they going to give us the support they’re giving us now, or is this just a photo-op?”

Gunn said she knows the movement is not about the black student issue. She said, like she said in her speech, it’s about what’s next.

“I don’t think you can decipher who is in it wholeheartedly and who is not,” Gunn said. “I hope the people that are out here are doing it for the right reasons because they see our struggle, they see us. It’s not just for a photo-op. Like I said we will know when the dust settles cause we won’t see those faces anymore and that’s where the truth lies.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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