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Say Her Name

Crowd gathers to honor Breonna Taylor, raise awareness of racism

By Jana Mackin 

At high noon, call and response of love and righteous indignation rang out yesterday when some 70 Black Lives Matter supporters crowded outside the Monongalia County Courthouse to honor Black people killed by police.

Say her name!” Del. Danielle Walker, D-Mon., chanted through the bullhorn.

“Breonna Taylor,” answered the crowd.

Throughout the afternoon, supporters said her name several more times at this event held to bring attention to people killed by police, such as Taylor and George Floyd whose deaths have sparked months of protests throughout the country, including West Virginia. 

Heightened awareness of racism and racial injustice was also stressed as well as encouraging voter awareness and participation through the efforts of such organizations as Solidarity for Equality and Compassion, Black Lives Matter and the WV Black Voter Impact Initiative.

“Our goal is to protest, bring awareness to get out and vote and be involved,” said Samm Norris, event organizer for Solidarity for Equality and Compassion. “Racism is still very much alive. We are protesting the fact that Breonna Taylor wasn’t doing anything. She was sleeping in her bed. It’s horrendous.”

A group marches down Spruce Street on Saturday, during the protest of the death of Breonna Taylor.
People listen to the speaker on Saturday, during the protest of the death of Breonna Taylor

The crowd was filled with all types of people, from  gray-bearded residents to college students  and professionals who came out to hear speakers and show solidarity for Taylor, as well as promote equality. While one man yelled out for reparations, others stood back quiet in white Breonna Taylor T-shirts or held signs.

“I BARK AT RACISTS” was a sign held by WVU student Lenna Lyon.

“I’m just very glad that I can stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves,”  said the 18-year-old.

Scotti, (no last name), a clinical psychologist, handed out a stack of homemade signs to show BLM support and promote the power of love as a tool for peace.

“I’m 65 years old. I’ve been involved since the 60s. I’m out here because I’m a decent human being and I’m fighting for people who don’t have what they need,” Scotti said.  

Several representatives from the WV Black Voter Impact Initiate also attended, promoting voter outreach, education and recruitment as the election nears. Everyone who spoke stressed the importance of voter turnout this election cycle. Norris and Hawa Diawara also addressed the crowd. 

Black Lives Matter flag
A BLM supporter waves a flag on Saturday, during the protest of the death of Breonna Taylor.

Micheal Washington and her 14-year-old daughter, Nykelle, both volunteers with the Black Voter Initiative, showed up as well for voter education, information and the fight against social injustice.  

“We’re here to say her name,” said Micheal. “That could have been my daughter.” 

After her speech, Walker spent the afternoon meeting with many of her supporters, discussing the problems of racism nationally and locally. The informal meet-and-greet allowed  Walker, who is Black, to connect with her constituents and reach out to the community.

Walker recently sent Gov. Jim Justice a two-page letter, referring to racial slurs that she experienced at a protest in Kingwood,  on Sept. 12. The letter called on the governor to denounce systemic racism. The governor addressed the issue by having police and human rights officials reach out and call Walker to address what might be done, regarding the incidents. She has spoken with human rights and police representatives about the issue. Still, Walker said, she does not feel safe. She worries not just about her safety but her community as well. Everyone deserves to feel safe as a basic “human right,” she said.

“I need to protect myself. I have private security,” she said.

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