Songs of praise and prayer echoed in the streets of Baltimore Sunday afternoon, as two Black faith leaders brought demonstrators together in another protest against racial injustice.
As protests continue over a month after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Elder Rashad Singletary and the Rev. Mark Montgomery led about two dozen demonstrators in a march from the Baltimore Convention Center to the War Memorial Plaza across from City Hall.
The rally came one month after the two organized a youth protest in the city, at the peak of nationwide protests after Floyd’s death. The two led Sunday’s demonstration as part of the Baltimore Faith Guild, a group of young, area pastors focused on civic and community engagement.
“It’s important for us to do another [demonstraion] as a collective body, as faith believers, to let people know that this isn’t a trend,” Montgomery said. “The problems aren’t going anywhere and it requires our participation.”
“We can’t just do it when things are bad, but we have to keep this in the forefront, that there is work that we need to do,” Singletary said. ”Even when the cameras aren’t there, even when things have settled down in the media, it’s our responsibility to still continue to work to see that our communities see equity and equality.”
While Sunday’s two dozen or so protesters were a fraction of the June turnout, which brought about 400 people together, Montgomery told the crowd they were “powerful in spirit” before leading them in prayer.
The demonstrators, dressed in all black in the sweltering heat, marched in the middle of Pratt and Gay Street, reciting the types of chants that have been heard across the country since late May.
“No justice, no peace.”
“Say her name, Breonna Taylor.”
Multiple people in the Inner Harbor stopped to show their support for the group, raising their fists or joining in on the chants for a moment.
The marchers settled at the War Memorial Plaza, meeting a group of instrumentalists and singers for the continuation of the rally.
Montgomery addressed the crowd again, calling for not only the end of systemic racism and white supremacy but a focus on economic equity.
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He called the June incident at Ouzo Bay, a Greek restaurant in Harbor East, where a Black boy was denied entry for not adhering to the dress code even though a white boy was admitted in similar clothing, a “disregard for the Black dollar.”
While Atlas Group has since dropped the dress code requirement at two of its establishments and announced it would create an advisory board, Montgomery said the company could show its commitment to the area by investing in local communities.
“In the same way Ouzo Bay would invest in the Black community is the same way the city government should do it as well,” Montgomery said. “It’s just not business, but it’s also government. And that’s what I call economic equity.”
As the musical ensemble was just a few minutes into their performance, wind picked up and storm clouds gathered in what would become a severe thunderstorm warning.
Out of caution for the safety of the crowd, organizers quickly ended the rally. But the two faith leaders promised further action in the months to come. They said they have plans to enter communities in September and October to get people registered to vote and to help them understand the importance of participating in the political process.
“Voting is a right that we have because of our ancestors fighting for it. They bled and died for it,” Montgomery said. “So the right to vote isn’t just important to be civic and to be able to choose who we want our leaders to be, it’s also a commitment and a way of honoring the legacy of our ancestors who fought for the right to have a voice.
“The vote is the voice and the public space to be able to determine who our leaders are. It gives us a stake in the city and the well being of the city and how it goes forth.”