Rally organizers touched by Woodburn spirit
After you stage a successful rally, it takes a while to wind down.
That's what 2016 Woodburn High School graduates Arzel Duarte and Khaya Mathis discovered during the weekend after leading hundreds of Black Lives Matter supporters through the streets of Woodburn, from Centennial Park to city hall to the high school and back.
"We went to sleep at like around 3 a.m.. It took us that long to be, like, 'OK, we did it,'" Khaya said Saturday morning.
The well-coordinated Black Lives Matter Woodburn rally provided spirited moments Friday evening, including an 8-minute, 46-second kneeling at city hall in remembrance of George Floyd, who lost his life when a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for that amount of time.
Remembering Floyd and others who have had ill-fated and deadly encounters with law enforcement nationwide was the focal point of the rally.
The orator slate at the rally's onset in Centennial Park included several African Americans.
In addition to Khaya, speakers included her sister, Jezelle Mathis, who delivered a moving poem, "My black is beautiful," that was translated into Spanish by Woodburn City Councilor Debbie Cabrales.
In a heart-wrenching oratory, Adrianna Becker recited Floyd's last words:
"It's my face man. I don't do nothing, seriously man, please, please, please I can't breathe. Please man, I can't breathe. I can't breathe. Please, man, I can't breathe. My face, just get up, I can't breathe. Please, I can't breathe s***, I will, I can't move, mamma, mamma. I can't, my knee, my nuts, I'm through. I'm claustrophobic. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. Some water or something, please, please, I can't breathe officer. Don't kill me! They gon' kill me, man. Come on man, I can't breathe. They gonna kill me. I can't breathe. Please sir, please, please. I can't breathe."
Portland's REAP organization CEO Levell Thomas and REAP ambassadors Chauncy Reddix, Anderson DuBois, Chad Boyd and Brian Odom, along with poet Robert White, all shared deep, personal sentiments with the crowd.
"For me, the number-one thing that stood out was having the black speakers. They really inspired everyone, and I think it really opened everyone's eyes," Khaya said. "Hearing the truth; hearing the pain; hearing the suffering that blacks have to go through daily."
The crowd was primarily younger and Latino, but overall, there was a broad mix of races and ages.
"I think what meant most to me was it was nice to see the Latino community being there, supporting everything," said Arzel, who just completed her degree in sociology and psychology at the University of Oregon this spring. "To see my people come together with my friends' people — it's just really nice to see that unity."
That unity appeared seamless throughout, but it was not accomplished without serious focus and some toil. Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson delivered a bilingual tribute to unity and the power of protest at city hall, while also acknowledging the diligent efforts of the organizers.
The mayor, a former educator in the Woodburn School District, said: "It was inspiring to see two former students initiate and plan such a well organized event."
Following the event's Centennial oratories, the march commenced down Parr Road, and it appeared to pick up support along the route.
"A lot of people would see us and run in from their houses to show support. People (along the route) were really supportive," Arzel observed.
"I think there were two anti-protesters doing their own thing, but they were pretty controlled didn't cause any problems," she added. "It felt really good to come back to Centennial and say 'Wow, we just did that.'"
Arzel said the support of the downtown businesses, many of which posted Black Lives Matter signs in their windows, was inspiring.
"Downtown is like a little Mexico, and seeing the message of unity was really powerful," she said.
The scenario warmed the organizers, who were a tad overwhelmed.
"We were in shock, in a way," Khaya said.
"A lot of people doubted us. They doubted what we were trying to have in Woodburn," she continued. "We just proved (the character of) the community. None of that (feared negative repercussions) happened. Working together with the community, working with the police, and working with PCUN, and working with Mayor Swenson and particularly with the downtown businesses, we demonstrated a very, very supportive community."
The mayor agreed whole heartedly.
"I was moved watching hundreds of young people respectfully exercising their free speech in peaceful protest on a difficult issue that has plagued our world and our country," he said.
My black is beautiful
My black is beautiful and
Tupac once said the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice,
the darker the flesh the deeper the roots
25 years ago and those words still speak truth
and still, my black is beautiful
My black has roamed this earth from the beginning of time
400 years of tears and tarnish
And when you think they're done they'll pick from the carnage
Like strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees as Billie Holiday once told it
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
fast forward 2020 and those words still stuck
But still, my black is beautiful
My hair tells stories
My curls run wild
My melanin runs deep
These are the things that make the men weak
They swarm you see, the time has come
My black is so beautiful
My confidence screaming to the sky
This black queen you can't deny
It if takes all the thunder in my thighs
You will hear me cry. You will hear me roar
Together, we will walk through that door
United we will stand tall and proud we will be for our black is beautiful and finally, the world will see.
— Jezelle Mathis
Mi negro es hermoso y Tupac una vez dijo que cuanto más negro la baya el jugo más dulce,
cuanto más oscura sea la carne, más profundas son las raíces
Hace 25 años y esas palabras todavía dicen la verdad
y aun así mi negro es hermoso
Mi negro ha vagado por esta tierra desde el principio de los tiempos
400 años de lágrimas y empañamiento
Y cuando creas que han terminado, recogerán de la carnicería
Como fruta extraña colgando de los álamos como Billie Holiday una vez dijo
Aquí hay una fruta para que los cuervos saquen avance rápido 2020 y esas palabras todavía recordamos
Pero aun así mi negro es hermoso
Mi cabello cuenta historias Mis rizos corren salvajes
Mi melanina es profunda Estas son las cosas que debilitan a los hombres
Ellos enjambre ya ves, ha llegado el momento
Mi negro es tan hermoso
Mi confianza gritando al cielo
Esta reina negra que no puedes negar
Si toma todo el trueno en mis muslos
Me oirás llorar. Me oirás rugir
Juntos, entraremos por esa puerta
Unidos nos mantendremos y orgullosos estaremos
porque nuestro negro es hermoso y finalmente el mundo lo verá.
— Jezelle Mathis
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