Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are three names recently added to a list of highly disconcerting deaths — unarmed African Americans killed by police. Protestors throughout the country are calling for change over these cases and others. We applaud the peaceful protests — the vigils such as the one held in Chestertown Friday, Dec. 5 — and deplore those that led to looting and attacks on innocent people.
“We're here tonight because senseless acts of violence continue to happen. Every face we see on the news is a father who will never walk his daughter down the aisle, a pre-school teacher who will never get to see her class graduate, a boyfriend who will never get to propose to the love of his life, a mother who will never have the opportunity to provide for her family and a child who will never get to start their life,” said Kyle "Kotic Couture" Wilson, one of the organizers of the Chestertown vigil.
When Paul Tue, of the Bayside HOYAS, said Chestertown is one step away from being Ferguson, Mo., where Brown was killed, he was right. We may be a small town, but the Internet has given media outlets a global reach. Do a Google search for images of "Frosty arrested" and you'll see how some of our local police officers last made the national news.
We are a small community, though, and we think that step Tue mentioned is not likely to be taken. The benefit of our size is that so many people know one another. Our municipal police departments and county sheriff's office are just as much a part of the community as they are the ones watching over it. The officers and deputies know the people in and around our towns. We are not faceless citizens, nor are they faceless officers.
Still, change is needed. Chestertown resident Ron Jordan spoke at the Dec. 5 vigil in Fountain Park about how African Americans do not feel welcome downtown. He spoke about how he knows of companies that will not hire minorities for fear of being sued.
Washington College student Janjay Mason, whose family grew up in Liberia, said a lot of people do not think racism still exists. She detailed instances of racism — writ both large and small — against her and her family. Racism and discrimination remain, and we should not turn a blind eye to that fact. There are changes to be made both on a grand scale and at the individual level. We have the power to change, and to effect change. Anyone who showed up in Fountain Park Dec. 5 took a step forward, and each step forward is one in the right direction.
“I'm tired of people arguing and killing each other,” Annie Power said at the vigil. “I'm ready for us to just act through love.” As the Bible says, love your neighbor. In our close-knit community, we are all neighbors. Acting through love is as easy as simply nodding hello to those you pass on the sidewalk or in the grocery store. See the people around you, acknowledge them with a smile. Even better, engage people in conversation.
John Queen, of the Bayside HOYAS, said the vigil was a reaction to recent events, and we need to take proactive measures to move a community dialogue forward in Kent County. We all need to get more involved. This is our home, and if we want to see change come throughout the nation, we have to start here.
We applaud those who organized the Dec. 5 vigil, including Community Mediation Upper Shore. According to its website, CMUS provides "accessible conflict resolution services through mediation, education, and training to promote respectful resolution of conflicts and disputes." It serves Queen Anne's, Kent and Cecil counties. Find out more about this organization at www.cmusmediation.org.
Kent County is a great place to live. It's a safe place to live. But, just like every other community in the nation, there are social issues that need to be addressed. Seeing people come out on a rainy and cold Friday night to talk about events that happened many states away shows the interest to keep moving forward is here.