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‘The movement that our ancestors dreamed of’: Demonstrators join Juneteenth march through Arbutus

As a student at Lansdowne High School, Coralie Boly never learned about Juneteenth in her social studies classes.

“I had to go out there and do the research myself,” Boly told a crowd of at least 150 demonstrators who sat, many holding Black Lives Matter signs, in Arbour Manor Park in Arbutus on Friday afternoon.

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The lack of education about Juneteenth, an annual celebration of the end of slavery since the mid-1860s, is just one indication of “the system we have in place that is holding us back,” and that historically prioritizes white perspectives over black voices, Boly said.

“155 years later, we stand here together, still fighting to be treated equally,” said Gabby Christopher, a Columbia resident and co-organizer of the march.

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For many, the significance of this Juneteenth commemoration has been amplified in the wake of the highly publicized police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and Rayshard Brooks of Atlanta.

Those deaths add to the “countless others [who] did not expect their lives to be lost in order to be a catalyst that forced this movement to shake the nation,” said Baltimore-based activist Kenisha Jenkins.

“We are the movement that our ancestors dreamed of,” Jenkins said. “Now is the time. And this is a call to action.”

Organized by Christopher and Lansdowne High graduates Boly and Amina Carter, the rally highlighted the stories of its black speakers, many who spoke, sometimes through tears, about the racism they’ve faced growing up in suburban areas and attending predominantly white schools, and the fear they continue to feel into adulthood.

Carter, who grew up in Lansdowne, remembered a time at age 8 when a white 8-year-old girl said Carter made her uncomfortable. Carter recalled tearfully asking her mother to straighten her hair to get rid of the locs she donned when “I was small and brown and I was happy.”.

“My family always told me I was beautiful and I was strong, and when I went to the real world I thought it was the same thing, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t the same thing,” Carter said, pausing as demonstrators called out “you are beautiful” and “you are strong.”

Rayna Moore, a youth mentor and senior at Howard University who also grew up in Lansdowne, remembered seeing police lights flash behind her as she drove. Her first instinct was to press the record button on her phone before pulling over.

“That day may not have been memorable for that officer but for me it really clicked that this was an ongoing issue that had an impact on the daily lives of black youth,” she said.

Racial inequity runs deeper than calls for police reform, Christopher said. The fight will not stop until equity is achieved for racial minorities in housing, education, healthcare and the workforce.

This Juneteenth event started with a march to Arbour Manor Park that began a mile away in the 1000 block of East Drive, the main business corridor of Arbutus. Demonstrators marched down East Drive and into a neighborhood lined with homes where some residents sat on porches watching. As chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace” rang out, some residents called back “All lives matter,” and “we’re not white supremacists.”

As plans for the march circulated online, some Facebook users posted comments inciting violence against the organizers, including one person who wrote “lock and load,” and encouraged drivers to run over protestors if they’re seen.

Others simply told organizers to hold the rally in a different neighborhood.

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There was a heightened police presence along the march route and at Arbour Manor Park.

Jordan Santiago, a longtime resident of Wynnewood, was galvanized to join the march because of observations he’s made in his own neighborhood, where he said residents were once upset over a predominantly Black church being built nearby.

“I see it all the time,” he said. “I see it every day.”

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