The outrage that has gripped the US since George Floyd was killed has reached down into the Mississippi Delta.
It could not be clearer that the anger people, especially black people, feel about the procession of brutal, often fatal incidents involving black people being hurt or killed by law enforcement personnel has reached not only a boiling point, but also reached into rural communities in places one would never expect to experience protest.
For instance, yesterday, at least 500 gathered at the Ada, Oklahoma police department to protest the death of Mr. Floyd, for which the former cop/perpetrator has now been charged with murder.
I've been through Ada, a county seat within 100 persons the same population as Clarksdale, a few times. There are hundreds of small cities in the 10 to 30,000 range of population, and like dealing with the coronavirus, the longer the solutions to problems are deferred the more likely the outrage is to spread to most all of them.
In Clarksdale, about 250 persons, about four out of five black, gathered at 5 PM at the Delta Blues Museum stage at the end of Yazoo Avenue, where they listened to a variety of young movement activists, at least one of whom was affiliated with Black Lives Matter, for which there were signs in abundance, and black preachers from local churches.
Other speakers included Clarksdale's Mayor Chuck Espy, the district State Representative Orlando Paden, State Senator Robert Jackson and Chamber of Commerce head Jon Levingston.
Levingston was the only white person to speak. He acknowledged that he could not personally know what being Black has meant to countless millions of black people over the history of the New World, and challenged the white people who attended (mostly young folks, plus a smattering of old hippie and radical types) to listen and learn from their black fellow human beings. Quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he said that we don't need hatred or lawlessness, but "love, wisdom, and compassion with one another."
What the four or five younger black men and women speaking wanted most of all is for social change: an end to systemic racism, and an end to police brutality against people of color, to result from the ongoing national and international hue and cry over the killings of George, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice and too many others to list here. As one speaker repeated several times, it is time for whites in America to have serious conversations about race and racism that have been delayed for far too long.
Espy, Mayor of Clarksdale, was as fiery a speaker as any of the young speakers or preachers, and praised God as often as the latter. "You cannot defy this generation! This generation hates nobody, they seek no color barriers, they don't have race or racism in their hearts! They're asking to stand, together, together we will stand!" he said.
Espy reminded the attendees that when people are really at a breaking point, they call out for their mother, and that's what George Floyd did shortly before he lost consciousness and perished.
He added a long peroration about his struggle to guarantee minority contractors "a place at the table" of economic opportunity in Clarksdale, and castigated local politicians whom he declined to name for treating black people "like dogs." He added that these people needed to "apologize to the black man you called a (n-word)."
His greatest moment of emotion was in opposition to the notorious Mississippi State Flag, which includes the Confederate Stars and Bars. "Take that flag down, it divides us! It's killing all of us! Take it down!" Espy demanded.
He also thanked the Clarksdale police chief for what he concludes is good community policing.
I didn't go on the march that left the Museum grounds. Now, my life history is as a military veteran, a street medic among my participations in 49 years of activism, and a member of my Clarksdale community.
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