Standing Up in Public

George Floyd's murder made me sick, and I'm raising my voice to change society.

by Gabrielle Rodriguez

I recently went to a Black Lives Matter vigil at the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York, a church on the Upper West Side. The vigil honored those who lost their lives to police brutality and white supremacy. It was my first protest, besides Fair Futures rallies.

The energy was different, because the Fair Futures rallies were about access to support and opportunity, not life or death. I felt sad at the vigil because the reality that a group of people has to protest against being murdered by those who have sworn to protect them is unjust. I could feel that everyone was trying to reflect.

About 100 people were there. It started with everyone lying on their stomachs with their hands behind their back for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd was held down. Then people were supposed to yell out how that felt, and people yelled out “terror” and “genocide.” It hurt to lie there with my hands behind me, and I kept thinking about how George Floyd was calling for his mom. But I couldn’t articulate how I felt in one word.

It was weird that there were police there; it was a church. We sang two songs and then there were three speakers. The first speaker said, “Black trans lives matter,” and I was struck by the LGBTQ community being brought up at a church, and also that the speaker called out anti-gay attitudes in Black and brown communities.

A Latinx man spoke to his privilege and called out anti-Black sentiment in the Latinx community. A Black woman from the church called out the names of people murdered by the police and we yelled “Say Their Name” after each one.

Then people in the crowd were invited to yell out names of people they knew who were murdered by police, and we said, “Say Their Name.” Hearing names I didn’t know made me realize how many people police brutality touches.

Souleymane T.

It was predominantly White people, and I don’t know how often they get these kinds of messages about trans people and Latinx and Black people. There were a lot of children, which surprised me. I wonder what they really understood of what was said.

It keeps me up at night knowing that these things continue to happen. It makes me nauseous to think this is the society where I’m going to be a teacher and where I may have children. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to support this movement and communicate this issue to my family.

My 9-year-old sister asked me, “What’s protest?” I told her that it’s when people stand up for themselves in public. I told her police are killing Black people and people are in the streets saying that’s not right.

Going to the vigil made me want to do more: call out racism in our different systems and organize youth to do the same.

It hurt to lie there with my hands behind me in the protest, and I kept thinking about how George Floyd was calling for his mom.
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