“You know what the southern plantations used to do during that Civil War? They used to move their slave populations around, especially in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, trying to avoid the liberation of black people,” said Marco McWilliams. “But some people didn’t wait. They left, they ran they escaped, they took their freedom – because nobody can emancipate you.“
McWilliams, historian, and educator, was the first speaker at the Providence Juneteenth Rally, led by POC Youth organizations including Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), Providence Student Union (PSU), Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), Leadership Journey, and Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE).
The streets were bare just as they have been these past few months during quarantine and over the horizon marched hundreds to the Rhode Island State House. They chanted loud and clear and march would pass by, the crowd so large, that a second chant could be heard while the back half would pass by. Their demands are clear with the banner in the front calling for defunding the police along with systemic changes to all local and state policies that promote anti-blackness, police brutality, and racism all around the world.
“What I do know is that our youth, especially our black and brown youth, have so much power, so much energy, so much passion to make these changes happen,” said Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, co-director of PrYSM. “I am talking about abolishing these systems that were made to keep black and brown communities exactly where we are right now. None of this is an accident. And today with our youth leading our way we’re saying defund the police right now.”
The rally had many speakers including Eugenie, who performed some of her amazing poetry:
“The Equation and the Answer. / Frustration divided by a nation is the equation of stimulation. / Assimilation only to be alienated by an alien nation with caucasians rasin’ on blacks / then also reconciliation to Asians for one atom bomb in Vietnam. “
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“I think that people forget that the people who’re sleeping outside, getting addicted to drugs and have nowhere to live were once children,” said Rachel Victorin. “They were failed and they are sleeping on the streets. If you look at them with hate in your heart, understand that you can be there too. Your children can be there too. Your children’s children can be there.”
“I want to know if young people feel like they have a voice in PPSD? Now, do you feel like you have a voice in this administration?” said Nikki, a Providence Public Schools social worker, highlighting the need for the Counselors Not Cops campaign, to yells of ‘”no! from the crowd.
“No!” continued Nikki. “The National Association of Social workers says that there should be one school social worker for 250 kids and if you have kids with special needs, it should be more like one to 50. There’s a thousand students at Mount Pleasant High school, how many school social workers are there?
“We celebrate this day Juneteeth as we think of historically as the end of formal chattel slavery, but it’s not really the end. You see, this is the beginning of something,” said McWilliams. “This is the beginning of something. This protest, this energy, this is an inauguration. We gotta move forward. We gonna move forward, all summer long, all year long, all decade long. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”