Marches, Demonstrations Mark Fourth Of July Holiday In Charlotte
Protests against racism and police brutality extended into the Fourth of July holiday Saturday with two events organized by young Black residents in Charlotte -- one of them a 9-year-old boy with support from his family, and the other a 17-year-old activist who's become a rising voice in Charlotte.
Jaxson Brooks, 9, was the catalyst for the Charlotte Children's March, which got underway in uptown Charlotte's First Ward Park at 10 a.m. Saturday. He said he had attended past marches in Charlotte with his mother, but wanted an event specifically designed to engage other kids like himself.
"Kids also need to learn what it's like to help the world," he said. "Grown-ups are helping, but kids also need to help."
Jaxson's parents, Jermaine and Jordan Brooks, were supportive of the idea, and worked with other organizations, including Raise A Child of the Carolinas, to stage the event on Independence Day.
Among those who spoke at the demonstration were Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham, as well as other young Black voices. The demonstration also included a march through uptown Charlotte, where participants stopped at the "Black Lives Matter" mural on South Tryon Street and spoke the names of African Americans killed by police -- as they blew bubbles into the sky.
A later demonstration in Freedom Park on Saturday was organized by 17-year-old Claire Tandoh, a recent graduate of Providence High School and founder of the local activist group Kidz Fed Up, which also organized a Black Lives Matter march last month through the streets of south Charlotte.
Before the event, Tandoh voiced strong disillusionment with the current state of the county.
"It's not liberty and justice for all," she said. "I want people to understand that the Fourth of July that we know of, up to this point, has been a bunch of white lies. Especially in our history textbooks. It wasn't our so-called founding fathers coming together for independence for all men -- but for specifically straight, white men."
She said she wanted Saturday's event to celebrate Black artists' achievements and work, rather than a country that continued to deny basic human rights to its Black residents. While the tone of past protests have been alternatingly high-spirited, somber, and at times chaotic, she said she hoped Saturday's demonstration would carry a lighter mood.
"I just want people to feel good," she said. "And right now the country's not really feeling good."
The event began with music, speeches, and spoken-word poetry performed in the Freedom Park bandshell. Afterward, demonstrators marched to Myers Park High School, where they planned to perform "Lift Every Voice and Sing," considered by many as the Black National Anthem.
Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, was among the speakers at the Freedom Park demonstration. She echoed the frustration that many Black Americans have felt on a day that professes to celebrate American independence.
"We know that Black people are not independent," she said. "We are not free. We won't be free until we have equity, equality, and we dismantle racism."
She said she hopes the groundswell of protests continues, and that local and national leaders enact substantive police reform. She also called for elected officials to intentionally put money into Black spaces and communities that afford them more opportunities.
Asked if she was optimistic for the country's future, she replied: "I'm feeling hopeful. Not optimistic, but I'm hopeful."
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