Banks rallies for fight against racial inequality
It's been more than two weeks since protests started in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. In that time, people have taken to the streets in nearly every major city in America — and beyond — asking for justice for the deceased, and reform of the types of policing responsible for their deaths.
It was Banks' turn Friday, June 12, and more than 200 individuals gathered in Greenville City Park before marching down Main Street armed with signs and chants in an effort to raise awareness for a problem touching communities big and small.
"I'm here because I feel like it's not only the right thing to do, but the thing to do," said Banks head football coach Cole Linehan. "Obviously there's injustice, there are people hurting, and there are people that maybe don't understand what's going on in the world outside their bubble. My kids are here and I want to try to explain to them what's going on in the world, and I want to make sure people in this town understand that there's a problem."
Linehan was just one of many who stood in the rain at Greenville City Park and listened to a small handful of people speak about the systemic problems that led to this point. One of those speakers was Linehan's uncle and longtime Banks resident, Ron Hamilton, who as a man of color had his share of stories. But it wasn't his experience that Hamilton, as an African American man, was interested in talking about on this evening, but rather the story he hopes will spread far and wide: one of unity.
"I'm here because there's been a lot of talk about separations, and as I said, we're one race of different cultures," Hamilton said. "There's been a lot of talk about black and white, but that's not what this is about, and I want to get that message out there."
Hamilton, whose wife grew up in Banks, added that he was proud of the community for its support, but also not surprised by its response despite the town's limited diversity.
"This is what I thought Banks was" he said. "Banks is people who care, and that's what I saw today. I saw the look in people's eyes. I've gotten around and talked to a few people and heard what they had to say, and they're sincere."
The rally was organized by sisters Alyssa Rogers and Christina Barackman. But while they were the originators of the idea, Rogers, 21, said it was important to note that the driving force behind it was not the two young women, but rather a "whole-hearted community thing."
"We were the ones who came up with it and made the poster, but it literally was a whole community effort," she said. "The community got behind this, and despite some backlash, the community put this on and is behind this message that we're here to spread today."
One of those in the crowd who marched from the park and lined Main Street in front of the high school was 17-year-old Mexican American Joshua King. The Banks native said he was there to stand up against the injustice in a system that he said he's seen firsthand work against people of color.
"My father was an immigrant and so was his entire family, and coming here to the United States and trying to make a life for themselves was extremely difficult because of the prejudice they faced," King said. "They had a hard time understanding English, and learning the language and how to live here was more difficult because of some of the prejudice they faced from the police and others."
King said he was heartened and pleasantly surprised by the number of supporters who attended the rally, and it was that level of commitment that had him smiling despite the events of recent weeks.
"I'm happy that there are so many people," he added. "This gives me hope, and hope is what we need and what's going to get us through this."
Rogers, too, was surprised by the number of supporters who braved the cool and wet conditions, but stressed that no matter how many, it would not have taken away from how much they wanted this to happen.
"We decided that we were going to do this no matter what," she said. "If 20 people came out, we were still going to be out here on the streets because we think it's that important.
"People have been silent for too long, and it's time to take a stand."
And what did the protesters hope would come of their demonstration? Like most who've held signs and chanted in support of the recent victims of racial inequality, they hope for change. But Hamilton's hopes — while certainly along the same lines — are much simpler: persistence.
"I hope it doesn't stop," he said. "I've seen it stop in my lifetime and it's important to seize the momentum, and I think it will.
"I see little kids out here and doing things like starting marches, and that's what's truly going to make the difference."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.