Saturday, June 6, 2020 is a day that will go down into the Davidson history books. An estimated 700-800 people gathered for a Community Solidarity March for BlackLivesMatter.
As the 24-hour news networks and local stations have shown the protests in big cities, and those in the Queen City, the rumblings began in Davidson. First with a handful and then dozens of protesters at the corner of Main Street and Concord Road. Protesters of all ages waved signs at the motorists who traversed the main arteries of our town.
As those protests continued, talk began of a larger event. As in so many other places, it was young people – teenagers in many cases – who organized the efforts. Maddie Reiss, a local high school student said of the effort: “The black community should not have to solve a problem they didn’t create. Equality should not be optional or controversial.”
One of her fellow student organizers, Georgia Champen reflected: “To my generation: develop empathy, educate yourselves on basic human rights, read books on anti-racism, and then take action. Because one day we will be the leaders of this country.”
And on Saturday peaceful protesters came to Davidson, as others did in hundreds of small towns across the Nation.
Organizers had looked at various options for the march, and the recommendation to have the destination be the Ada Jenkins Center resonated. Originally the Davidson Colored School, the brick building replaced a wooden structure that had burned to the ground. Ada Jenkins was a teacher and, subsequently, the principal of the school. The school was renamed in her honor posthumously in 1955. It continued to serve as the school for Davidson’s black students until 1966 when schools were integrated.
Protesters started gathering nearly an hour before the scheduled start time. The heat of the day was mitigated by the shade of the trees on the college side of Main Street. Shortly after 1 p.m. marchers began by crossing Main Street and headed down Depot Street. And while the significance of the crossing over the railroad tracks may have been lost on some, those very tracks serve as the literal and figurative dividing line in our town for far too long.
As marchers at the front of the protest reached the house on Sloan Street that originally belonged to Ada Jenkins, those at the back had not even crossed Main Street.
It took a while for all the protesters to arrive at the Ada Jenkins Center. After people spread out across the ball fields and courts, four of the high school students (“Youth for BLM”) who helped organize the event spoke to the crowd. Maya Goldsberry took time to thank a number of people and organizations who had helped with the event. She was followed by Annabelle Maultsburger
She closed her remarks by asking everyone to kneel or sit during the estimated 8 minutes and 46 seconds that would include silence, remarks, and prayers by local clergy: Rabbi David Lipper, Rev. Carmen Germino, Rev. Dr. Larry Lyon, and Min. Tracy Brandon. The video of the remarks can be found in our News of Davidson photo album.
Rabbi Lipper and Rev. Germino provided us the text of their comments.
From Rabbi Lipper:
Today is our Sabbath. It is a time of peace.
But today, there is little peace in our land.
COVID, Rage, Violence, Pain fills the streets of our cities.
And yet, as people of faith and belief, we pray. Like Anne Frank, hidden in her attic, who never lost her belief in the goodness of man, we pray. We may not be perfect, or blameless but we pray. Every person matters in this world.
That’s what’s on the line now. Through racism, through silence and bullets and indifference and vilification, black people are being told that their lives do not matter— brown people are being told that their lives do not matter. But our faith teaches, we all matter. We are all created in the Divine image.
Guided by that enduring, unfulfilled promise of the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, ours is a faith that has said, or worked to say to those who have been marginalized:
Your life matters.
You are white, black, brown or shades of other colors, and your life matters.
Right now we are being called—Allies and people of color alike.
We are called by our ancestors, by our principles, by our faith, by young activists across the country—to promote and affirm:
We stand with you
We walk with you
We love you.
From Rev. Germino
God of grace, we thank you for your presence among us today,
for the ways your Spirit is inspiring our community to come together in solidarity and lament.
Today, we pray with our words, but also with our feet,
marching in the footsteps of those who have trod this weary path before.
We ask your forgiveness for the ways we have failed to treat each and every person as a bearer of your divine image.
We ask your blessing to be upon us as we commit to doing the hard work you have given us to do.
We know that the lives of George, and Breonna, and Ahmaud, and too many others, matter to you.
Help them matter to all of us as well.
Bestow wisdom and compassion upon all who serve in positions of public trust, those who govern and those in law enforcement.
Protect them, O Lord, that they may safely carry out the highest ideals of our nation: liberty and justice for all.
God, your holy scriptures call us to love others as you love us.
Assist us in making your love visible through our actions, and guide our feet into the way of peace.
All these things we pray in your most Holy Name. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Larry Lyon followed with remarks
I will share three things, all written by people of COLOR.
From the prophet Micah:
“God has told you, o mortal, what is GOOD.
And what the does Lord require of you,
But to do justice
And to love kindness
And to walk humbly …..with your God.”
From the letter of First John:
“God is love.
Those who say, I love God, and hate….their brothers or sisters.
Are liars…..for those who do not a love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
And finally, the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote these words while sitting in the Birmingham jail:
“My friends, I must say to you, that we have not made a SINGLE gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.”
Thank you for being here today. I remember when I myself was 17, in April 1968, and where I was sitting doing homework when news came of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Within hours, Washington, D.C., 12 miles from where I was sitting, was aflame. And here we are now. The struggle continues.
Let us pray.
Gracious, loving and everlasting Lord:
Thank you for being a God of love.
Help us to be people of love, to be people who love justice, and more important, seek to do justice.
He wrapped up his comments by saying “as an older white guy, I will say to you Black Lives Matter.”
The prayers and reflections of clergy concluded with remarks from Minister Tracy Brandon. She spoke from the heart, and without notes. Her emotional and powerful charge to the crowd “to be a people of love, a people of peace, a people of justice” was followed by the benediction to “Speak Up, Stand Out, and Stand Up!”
And following those words, the crowd began to disperse – taking that benediction with them.
Our closing words on the protest go to Mrs. Bernice Houston – a lifelong Davidson resident. She viewed the marchers from the Davidson Presbyterian Church parking lot on Depot Street. “I was very impressed with the Davidson protest. I simply wish they had done this 50 years earlier.”