Black Lives Matter-Vermont Rallies for Change | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Black Lives Matter-Vermont Rallies for Change 

click to enlarge Ebony Nyoni - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Ebony Nyoni

Ebony Nyoni had a tough message for the large, mostly white crowd gathered at a Winooski bar six days after the presidential election: Distraught people looking for comfort as they contemplated a Donald Trump presidency would not find it from her.

"Trump doesn't scare me," the founder of Black Lives Matter Vermont began, to thunderous applause. "We've been dealing with racists like him for hundreds of years. He's nothing new."

But, she warned, "If you're only here to feel better about yourselves now that he's won, we don't need you. We need people who will work to save black lives."

With that, Nyoni led more than 100 supporters on a boisterous, traffic-obstructing march through the Onion City, drawing still more people from homes along Main Street in spontaneous solidarity. It was a signature evening for the emerging civil rights organization. But was it a sign of sustainable momentum for Black Lives Matter Vermont? Or was it a rogue wave of support in the immediate, uneasy aftermath of an election that left many Vermonters unsettled?

"I've seen a lot of organizations come and go," said Robert Appel, a 65-year-old lawyer and civil rights activist. "The challenge has been to sustain a coordinated effort."

BLMVT is the new kid on the block in Vermont's robust activism community. But in recent months, buoyed by a surge of attention to the now-international Black Lives Matter movement, the local organization has become among the most visible advocacy groups in Vermont.

Its evocative black-and-yellow raised-fist logo has become a fixture at marches and protests around the state, not to mention on bumper stickers and T-shirts. The group's own events consistently garner significant media coverage.

The organization has benefited from a Trump-inspired burst of local activism and has used its newfound visibility to push an ambitious platform. But BLMVT faces many of the same challenges as its predecessors in Vermont's civil rights movement — most glaringly, the state's pervasive whiteness. African Americans are just 1.3 percent of the state's population.

"We don't have a model to follow," said Vermont Law School student and BLMVT leader Brittmy Martínez, noting that most Black Lives Matter chapters benefit from a more diverse population than Vermont's. "We have to build it from the ground up."

And the state's liberal politics can be a hindrance, not a help, according to BLMVT youth coordinator Isaiah Hines.

"The single biggest barrier to racial justice work in Vermont is the fact that we are such a politically progressive state," said Hines, a South Burlington High School senior. "That's a problem, because it leads to people dismissing the experiences of people of color. People thinking that they're more 'woke' or aware than they are is a huge issue."

"The conversation has shifted, and the tone has improved," said Appel. "But we're not out of the woods. There is a lot of growth yet to happen."

A Call to Action

click to enlarge Ebony Nyoni - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Ebony Nyoni

"I had no idea what racism was until I moved to Vermont," Nyoni said last month. She was sitting on a plush couch in the recently opened Shop 4 Change, BLMVT's store and safe space on Main Street in Winooski. The Bronx native clarified that while she had understood conceptually what racism was, she had never felt the sense of "otherness" she experienced upon arriving in Burlington in the mid-1990s to attend the University of Vermont.

Nyoni recalled the first time she strolled the Church Street Marketplace. There she encountered a tall punk rocker dressed all in black with piercings, a spiked Mohawk and a cape.

"But no one was looking at him," she said with a big laugh. "And everyone was looking at me! Clearly, I was rare here."

Nyoni, who is in her mid-thirties (she declined to give her exact age), cuts a commanding figure. She smiles and laughs easily in conversation, a sharp contrast to the firebrand she becomes when addressing crowds of protesters.

"I was embarrassed of me, that people were looking at me," she continued. "As a dark-skinned woman, it was uncomfortable. I felt like I didn't want to disturb people's environments."

Now, disturbing those environments is her specialty.

Nyoni's activism runs in the family. Though she's unsure of precise associations and activity, she said her parents were involved in civil rights work in the 1970s. Extended family members were affiliated with the Black Panthers, she said.

Her own interest in activism began at UVM, where she double-majored in history and education. (She later completed a master's degree in special education, also at UVM.) Inspired by her studies of the histories of oppressed peoples, Nyoni joined the ALANA (Asian American, Latino, African American & Native American) Coalition at UVM and immersed herself in the local activist community. She cited the late Vermont activist Paij Wadley-Bailey as a mentor.

"She was just this loud, proud queer black woman, and I loved her," said Nyoni of Wadley-Bailey, who died last year.

Nyoni, whose career has included stints at the Howard Center, the Agency of Education and running a soul-food catering company, is no stranger to tragedy. Her cousin, Yemalla Sprauve, was killed in 2011 as she robbed a Vergennes convenience store. According to police, Sprauve threatened a white store clerk with a knife and died after a 15-minute struggle. The state's chief medical examiner ruled it a homicide, but a county prosecutor declined to file charges.

click to enlarge Inside Winooski's Shop 4 Change - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Inside Winooski's Shop 4 Change

Nyoni traced the origins of BLMVT to an informal meeting at UVM professor Patrick Brown's since-shuttered Caribbean Corner restaurant in 2013. The gathering occurred days after George Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of an unarmed black Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin — the same ruling that ultimately inspired the national Black Lives Matter movement.

"It was a weird dynamic, because it was a lot of white people talking," Nyoni said of that first meeting.

At the time, she had recently returned to the area from Franklin County to open Ebony Beauty Supply & Hair Boutique in Winooski.

Outraged by the Martin shooting and verdict, Nyoni organized a Burlington march that drew 500 people. She also started a Facebook page, Racism Kills Dreams in Vermont.

Much as the national movement grew out of a social media hashtag, RKDIV coalesced into a grassroots organization that met regularly at Burlington's Fletcher Free Library, drawing leaders of numerous other local activist groups. The group began discussing the principles of Black Lives Matter, adapting them to Vermont, and eventually began to identify as part of the wider crusade.

"I'm not sure exactly at what point we started using 'Black Lives Matter,'" she said. "It just sort of happened naturally."

Rise Up

click to enlarge Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School

Since Zimmerman's acquittal in 2013, Black Lives Matter has grown into an international network of more than 30 official chapters in the United States and Canada.

Most of those are found in more diverse and urban areas than Vermont. Nyoni said her organization is on the waiting list for official BLM membership, along with dozens of groups around the country that consider themselves part of the larger movement.

"They seem to be overwhelmed and surprised by how quickly they've grown," Nyoni said of the national BLM organization. "They want to be sure they're able to provide resources for each chapter and support them."

Repeated attempts to reach national BLM representatives were unsuccessful.

If and when BLMVT is granted official chapter status, it will continue to exist as an independent entity.

"[BLM] have told us that each state is different and have their own dynamics," Nyoni explained. "So we develop our own leadership and bylaws." While she welcomes the autonomy, she added that linking to the national BLM network would provide beneficial connections and resources.

Mirroring the national group's all-female leadership, four women of color sit atop the BLMVT hierarchy: Nyoni, Martínez, Tiffany Johnson and Lynna Turner. A panel of senior advisers largely drawn from allied activist groups — Justice for All, the Vermont Workers' Center and others — has been helping to adapt the broader BLM mission to fit the specific needs of people of color in Vermont, Nyoni said.

"We want the agendas we push forward to be things that Vermonters want, too," said Martínez, who hails from Houston. "Because Vermont is unique, it has its own way of doing things. So we want to invest in that culture and hope that people see what the issues are and take part in change."

The group has outlined its objectives in "Black Lives Matter Vermont Demands, a living document." The first of seven demands calls for "full transparency of all data of incidents and complain[t]s involving police officers and Department of Corrections [for] Black people." Others include holding state agencies accountable for their hiring practices; full representation of blacks on public boards and commissions; annual cultural competency certification for public-sector workers; an increase in the number of black teachers and administrators at public schools; and a decrease in the number of children of color sent to white foster families.

To realize those goals, Nyoni envisions a nonlinear, three-phase plan for BLMVT. The first is building membership and infrastructure. The group aims to register 5,000 members in the next three years. It currently has about 300.

Phase two, according to the BLMVT website, is to affirm "the lives and contributions of black people in Vermont" and to build permanent safe spaces. Phase three concerns "legislative reconstruction" — in essence, lawmakers taking the needs of people of color into consideration to ensure "oppression-free legislation."

Nyoni is short on specifics about how to achieve such an ambitious agenda, citing the organizational struggles and growing pains of a nascent group, particularly one dependent on volunteers.

"We've had a lot of people joining and getting involved recently, which is great," she said. "But it's been tough to keep up with everything."

Still, she pointed to a couple of recent initiatives that illustrate BLMVT's ground-level approach. The first is the BLMVT store itself.

Equal parts café, art gallery and retail store, the small Main Street shop serves a variety of purposes. One is as an added revenue stream for the organization. The volunteer-run shop sells donated artwork — mostly prints and pottery — in addition to BLMVT gear and equal-trade coffee. But its primary function is as a "safe space" — a place where people of color can congregate, relax and strategize in a pressure-free environment.

"It's important to have spaces where we can feel a part of our own community," Nyoni explained. She added that one of several sister organizations around the state has also recently opened a safe space in Brattleboro.

Nyoni also pointed to a partnership with Justice for All, the Montpelier racial justice organization cofounded by BLMVT adviser Mark Hughes, as another way the group is making inroads. The two have launched the Racial Justice Reform Campaign, which aims to rid the Vermont Constitution of all references to slavery, as part of a larger effort toward criminal justice reform.

Chapter I, Article 1 of the state Constitution reads, "no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice..." But there's a catch: "...after arriving to the age of twenty-one years" the sentence continues, "unless bound by the person's own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like."

The campaign includes a petition and action plan, as well as a series of panel discussions, film screenings and meetings throughout the state.

Nyoni is also enthusiastic about a new "racial incidents" form recently added to the BLMVT website, through which users can report instances of bias. In addition to offering resources to help respondents deal with racist situations, the group plans to collect and publish the data. Nyoni claims that bureaucratic roadblocks in reporting incidents through the police or state agencies has led to some falling through the cracks.

"If your issue doesn't meet the criteria for 'extreme tangible evidence,' then nothing really happens," she said. "Or if it does, it takes forever. So this is a way to let people know that someone actually cares and takes them seriously."

As importantly, said Nyoni, the form exists as a way for BLMVT to document the experiences of black people in modern-day Vermont.

"The problem with racism in the 21st century is that, nine times out of 10, it's intangible," she said. "So you're not able to say, 'Oh, yeah. I see the marks on your neck from the hanging. Good thing you were able to get down.'

"It's not that kind of racism," she continued. "It's daily. It's micro-aggression."

Nyoni offered an exasperated laugh when asked to detail some micro-aggressions.

"Where do I start?" she said, rolling her eyes.

They're typically unintended or casual slights: for example, asking a Vermonter of color where they are really from, or praising a person of color for being "well-spoken." Though small, Nyoni says micro-aggressions add up. Recent studies suggest they can lead to a variety of mental health issues and even physical ailments.

"So we want to establish a system where no one gets left behind," she said. "We want to hear everyone's story and help everyone who has been victimized by racism."

I'm Not Racist, But...

click to enlarge Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School

According to Gallup, a polling company, Vermont is the most liberal state in the country, but its progressive leanings don't immunize Vermonters from prejudice.

"There is a lot of racism in Vermont," said Appel, the state's former defender general and director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission. One needn't dig deep to find evidence of prejudice in the state, as a scan of recent headlines reveals.

Across Vermont, Black Lives Matter signage has been repeatedly defaced or stolen, including a BLM flag taken from the UVM campus in September. Between May and October, 10 BLM signs were swiped from the lawn of Ferrisburgh's Rokeby Museum, which memorializes the Underground Railroad. But those are tame examples.

In August, state Rep. Kiah Morris (D-Bennington), one of Vermont's few black legislators, was the target of hate speech on Twitter. Max Misch, a constituent affiliated with the alt-right movement, tweeted Morris a caricature of a black person with the message: "Sheeeit, I be representin dem white muhfuggahz of Bennington, gnome sayin?"

Then there is the case of Andy Todd. For many years the only black officer on the Rutland police force, Todd sued the department in 2015, alleging a decade of racial abuse and discrimination against himself and black suspects. Todd's 144-point affidavit details an astonishing dossier of casual and explicit racism, as well as overt racial profiling throughout the department. Todd, now a Vermont State Police trooper, was awarded a $975,000 settlement, one of the largest in state history, from the City of Rutland in December 2015.

"The prejudice runs deep," Appel said. But as Nyoni noted, it's not always so overt.

Appel pointed to a widely publicized study on traffic stops published in January by UVM professor Stephanie Seguino.

That investigation found that black and Hispanic drivers are pulled over and searched far more frequently than white and Asian drivers — even though white drivers are more likely to have contraband. Seguino has said that's proof of bias against minorities on the part of Vermont police.

"My sense is, a good deal of these disparities is due to implicit bias," she told Seven Days in January.

Appel, who is white, said the study simply reaffirms what Vermonters with brown or black skin already know.

"If a cop stops you or me, the interaction is going to be very different from stopping a 22-year-old black man with dreads," he said. He added that he is currently defending a trio of cases he described as "driving while black," "parking while black" and "riding while black." While not surprising, he thinks the findings should be illustrative for those who deny that Vermont has a racism problem.

"The data [are] helpful to break down the denial that, 'Black people aren't mistreated,'" Appel said. "Including from those who are doing the mistreatment."

Fight the Power

click to enlarge Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month, Nyoni led BLMVT members and supporters on a march down North Avenue from Burlington High School to the Burlington Police Department. They were protesting the "school-to-prison pipeline" that many students of color face — even in Vermont.

According to a 2015 study by Vermont Legal Aid, in schools with significant minority populations, black students are two to three times more likely to be suspended than white students.

The BLMVT march drew a connection between those numbers and another disturbing statistical trend: Black Vermonters make up more than 10 percent of the prison population despite comprising less than 2 percent of the state's overall population, according to the Department of Justice.

Which isn't to say that all of those prisoners are necessarily Vermonters. A 2015 study by the Vermont Crime Research Group found that "when a defendant had an out-of-state record, regardless of race, it was a driving factor in the decision to incarcerate."

In the back parking lot of the police station, Nyoni addressed a huddled, windswept crowd of about 70 supporters through a crackling megaphone. Passing cars honked in solidarity with the protesters while Nyoni criticized the man whose office windows overlook that lot: Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo.

Nyoni accused Burlington's top cop of a litany of failings. She claimed an overly militarized force, a lack of departmental transparency, and failure to involve the black community in a Fair and Impartial Policing Policy he recently helped draft with city officials and community members. Seemingly most egregious to Nyoni was what she decried as the department's use, or overuse, of force. She ended each increasingly fevered accusation calling out the BPD chief by name in an almost teasing tone: "del Pozo!"

As it happened, del Pozo wasn't in his office that day. He was in Wisconsin, presenting a report with the heads of four other police departments to U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). That report, from the Police Executive Research Forum, detailed the findings of an experimental use-of-force policy aimed at reducing violent encounters. The BPD was a pilot program for the policy last year.

Del Pozo has become a favored target of Nyoni, who has criticized him publicly on numerous occasions. He disputes many of her accusations.

"We're one of the most transparent police departments in the country," the chief claimed last month in his North Avenue office. "I think the amount of data we put out is unprecedented in Vermont."

He pointed out that the BPD reports car-stop data quarterly, which is more frequent than state law requires. The department was one of a handful of local police agencies to voluntarily report that data before the law went into effect in 2014. The BPD also makes its data available to the public online via the Burlington Police Transparency Portal, which includes a database of police incidents searchable by race and gender.

The site also features a map of traffic stops and includes info on diversity hiring practices, a quarterly Crime and Conditions report, and a slide show on use of force, with a full report forthcoming.

Still, del Pozo agrees with Nyoni that the BPD should strive for even more transparency. He said the next step is to open up the department's internal disciplinary process to civilian review.

Despite the tension with BLMVT, del Pozo said he admires the organization's mission.

"Black Vermonters are in a position of acutely feeling how few in number they are," he said. "And it's easy to understand their concerns, especially when you don't readily have a reservoir of culture, language and, in many cases, religion that you can retreat to in places like Boston or New York City when you need to feel more part of your community.

"From what my friends of color have told me, they feel more exposed in Vermont," the chief continued. "So I can see that there is a lot of work for a group like Black Lives Matter to do."

Del Pozo said he's extended invitations via email to meet with Nyoni and BLMVT reps at "any time or place of their choosing" to discuss their concerns. But he hasn't received a response.

Nyoni said she will accept that invitation "when the time is right," both for her and BLMVT. She added that racial disparity in the criminal justice system is just one symptom of a much larger disease.

"To me, that's a result, and it causes other ripples," said Nyoni. "But it's everywhere, in all the systems."

She said she's focused for now on growing her organization to meet that broader challenge.

"We can't fix the systems," Nyoni said. "We can only tear them down and rebuild."

That's at odds with former president Barack Obama's approach to translating rhetoric into action. Speaking to a group of young people in London last year, he argued that while Black Lives Matter is "really effective in bringing attention to problems," it also needs to be willing to work within the political system to affect change.

"Once you've highlighted an issue and brought it to people's attention and shined a spotlight, and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can't just keep on yelling at them," he said.

"And you can't refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position," he continued. "The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved."

Marching Feet, Determined People

click to enlarge Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School

Black Lives Matter Vermont is not the first group to champion civil rights in the state. Pockets of resistance have existed in Vermont since well before it abolished slavery in 1777.

"There have always been freedom fighters, trailblazers here in Vermont," said Brown, the UVM lecturer who ran Caribbean Corner.

He added that those earlier civil rights fighters made significant gains. For example, he cited the late UVM professor and activist Larry McCrorey, who pushed to remove the names of Niggerhead Mountain and Niggerhead Pond in Marshfield.

"Black Lives Matter is just a continuation," said Brown, who serves as executive director of the Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center.

Where Brown sees a difference now is that there are more people willing to take up that cause.

"We're in a different place in our history in Vermont," he said. "It's a more diverse community than it was a couple of years ago. There's a consciousness and a lot of allies that will support anything around the issues of diversity."

That climate of solidarity will go a long way toward determining whether BLMVT succeeds, Appel argues.

"I remain hopeful that these diverse sets of activists would come together under common leadership and have a bigger impact," he said. "Organization and consolidation is important to impact change."

Martínez, the law school student and BLMVT leader, described her organization as unique among BLM chapters around the country, "because of the large amount of white allies we have to rely on to get stuff done."

"Building white allies plays a crucial part here in any initiative, social justice or otherwise," she continued. "And that's a challenge a lot of other chapters don't have. Because people still don't feel comfortable talking about race."

In February, Morris, the Bennington state rep, and members of BLMVT presented a simple resolution in the Vermont House recognizing the group's efforts to "affirm black Americans' humanity and resilience in the face of deadly oppression" and toward the "deactivation of systematic racism endured by all people of color in our state."

The resolution passed by voice vote. But not everyone in the House agreed.

Rep. Tom Terenzini (R-Rutland) rose during discussion of the resolution to offer a three-word rebuttal: "All lives matter."

Rep. Warren Van Wyck (R-Ferrisburgh), who joined Terenzini in opposing the resolution, explained to Seven Days, "'Black lives matter' as a principle is self-evident."

But, he continued, "Black Lives Matter as a movement is problematic since it has promoted false narratives that not only jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officers — a small number of whom have exercised excessive force — but especially the safety of the communities they work to protect."

The numbers suggest something different: that blacks are disproportionately the victims of police violence. According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force project, which tracks police-involved shootings around the country, black Americans were 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police as whites.

"Realistically, all lives matter," said Brown. "If we say 'Black lives matter,' it should be used in context of saying we need to stop police brutality, racial segregation, the mistreatment of black folks."

"Of course all lives matter," said Appel. "But not all lives have suffered involuntary slavery and oppression and police brutality, lynchings."

While race may still be a touchy subject for many Vermonters, white BLMVT supporters seem to understand the importance of getting and staying involved to the movement.

"Black Lives Matter is kind of a radical idea these days, unfortunately," Henry Harris of Plainfield said at the MLK Day march. "So I try to show up to everything I'm invited to and do everything I'm asked."

Others pointed to the increased urgency for action under a Trump regime.

"I think the election is kind of a cop-out for a lot of white people. But in a sense, that is the reality," said Burlington's Aidan Holding, 24, at a recent BLMVT action meeting. "But it's made people think about what is really important. And this is really important."

Lift Every Voice and Sing

click to enlarge Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at Burlington High School

At a recent BLMVT meeting in Burlington's Old North End, senior adviser Senowa Mize-Fox asked the crowd for free picture frames to use as part of an "I Am Vermont Too" photo exhibit in the Statehouse cafeteria. The display featured Vermont people of color holding signs detailing various micro-aggressions.

Nyoni's pleas for everything from grunt laborers to grant writers are an action-meeting staple — as is the passing of various sign-up sheets. The revolution is not always exciting. Sometimes it's downright mundane. But that's not to say the meetings are dull.

Held on the second Monday of the month in the gym of the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler, BLMVT gatherings can simultaneously have the feel of a social justice rally, a PTA meeting, a group counseling session, a gospel revival and, at least at one offshoot meeting, a theater arts and crafts group.

Nyoni typically opens the gatherings with a group sing-along. In January, one of the tunes was "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a classic protest song often referred to as the Black American National Anthem. Nyoni is a strong singer and did her best to coax a typically stiff crowd of Vermonters into lifting their voices. They did eventually loosen up a little.

Hughes, the Justice for All executive director, later gave a dazzling summation on the findings of the UVM traffic stop report. The wiry former Army man engaged the crowd with a spirited back-and-forth, several times jumping on top of a table to emphasize his points.

Mize-Fox had the unenviable task of following Hughes. But her retelling of recent experiences with race-based micro-aggressions was poignant and dripping with wry, sarcastic irony. Another senior adviser, Bread and Puppet Theater's Jabari Jones, gave details on an upcoming "creative protest" workshop designed to add artistic and theatrical flair to BLM marches. Art is a major component of BLM, nationally and locally.

For as casual and upbeat as these meetings can sometimes feel, the life-and-death struggles at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement are never far from mind. Also at the January meeting, BLMVT member Catherine Cadden, who is white, spoke at length about her friend Cynthia Hurd, who was among those murdered by Dylann Roof in his 2015 attack on a black church in Charleston, S.C. She closed by asking the crowd to speak the names of the nine victims of that shooting aloud.

At the same meeting, Nyoni spoke about the death of her cousin and read a poem she wrote for Sprauve. She paused several times to collect herself during the reading, her voice choked with emotion as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The IAA gym sits in one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Vermont, with a high density of refugees and immigrants. Yet the demographics at the December and January meetings didn't look terribly different from the rest of the second-whitest state in the country. Of the 100-plus attendees each month, 15 to 20 have been people of color.

There was another, subtler crowd trait. It's one that actually differs from the wider Vermont population, which is among the most rapidly aging in country: The majority of attendees were young.

That aligns with national perceptions of BLM. According to the Pew Research Center, support for the organization is largely concentrated in the under-30 set, regardless of race. Nyoni finds the support of young people and their increased awareness of racial issues a cause for optimism.

"Black people have been among the most oppressed people in America for centuries, and people are really starting to get that," she said. "But until we're lifted up, everything is gonna stay messed up. Our society will never be the best that it can be."


The original print version of this article was headlined "On the March"

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Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

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Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor.

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