Black Lives Matter Protesters In Columbia Emphasize Longstanding Change | KBIA

Black Lives Matter Protesters In Columbia Emphasize Longstanding Change

Jun 15, 2020

Protesters spoke on the vitality of the United States' history, whether past or present, that led to the Black Lives Matter movement during Sunday's peaceful demonstration.

Around 50 people marched from the Boone County Courthouse to Francis Quadrangle against racial injustice and police brutality. The protests have been held since May 29 in response to the death of George Floyd.

Roy Lovelady addressed the crowd, emphasizing the importance of telling stories. Lovelady is from Kennett, a small town in Missouri’s Bootheel. The population is split between white and black people, he said, the latter being referred to as “Colortown.”

“Today, let’s come together and unify as one,” Lovelady said. “That may be the only change that they need in order to change the racial injustice that they’ve been doing in their life. You know what I’m saying?"

Director of Inclusive Impact Institute Nikki McGruder pleaded to the crowd to get involved, during and after protests, and elevate black voices. She often directed the crowd's focus back to her glowing red T-shirt, embellished with the words "Melanin is not a crime."

“Why do we always have to go through something tragic to get here,” McGruder asked. “We’re still having these same conversations 400 years later. Why? My 7-year-old daughter asked me, ‘why don’t they like us?’ What do you say to a 7-year-old who cannot get in her head why people will simply look at her and not like her because of her skin?”

President of Race Matters, Friends Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp talked to the crowd about how to further the movement outside of protests by being an active citizen. One issue she brought up was shifting general revenue funds from the police to other resources, such as housing and health services.

“Can we police ourselves? Can we resolve problems without calling the police? I want challenge everybody to practice resolving matters without calling the police," Wilson-Kleekamp said.

Columbia resident Dani Perez has been photographing every protest in town in black and white. She has been devoted to attending each one to minority voices.

“I think you can capture different aspects of humanity,” Perez said on shooting in black and white. “I also want to be very tactful, because I don’t want to just treat this movement as something just to expose. I don’t want to treat black people like, ‘Oh, look at them,’ you know? I want to be respectful for the movement.”

As the crowd marched back to the courthouse, it had grown to around 100 people. Kiessense Bassett spoke in front of the courthouse about the importance of language used for black men and women. She also urged the crowd to keep the movement going after protests ended.

"It’s crucial to understand blackness," Bassett said. "It’s crucial to understand black people. For some reason, just because of our socialization, it is so hard. It’s even so hard for black people to understand other black people.”

At the end of her speech, Bassett echoed McGruder's earlier words and reminded the crowd that "we are not a monolith."