On Sunday July 10th 2016, hundreds gathered in Forsyth Park to participate in an “A Time to Mourn” vigil organized by the Savannah chapter of ‘Black Lives Matter’. In light of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, local activist quickly banded together not only in the memory of those lost but also to call attention to the issues of the black community in Savannah and across the nation.
The vigil consisted of scripture readings, a powerful sermon delivered by a local preacher, and a moment of silence for not only those lost to police brutality but also for the five officers killed during a sniper shooting in Dallas, Texas, as well as the forty-nine victims of the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando.
After the vigil ended, the gathered activists marched from Forsyth Park, through Ellis Square to City Hall. Along the way, the police were an active presence. Many officers shook hands with and greeted the marching protestors as they made their way through the city and worked to keep the peace until all were safe at their destination.
When speaking with participants, Joyce Smith stated that Black Lives Matter means “… Of course all lives matter, everybody matters, but as black people we are losing the race. We are completely falling behind everybody and it tends to look like nobody really cares about us. But you know looking here, now on everybody it seems that we have a lot of support.”
Another participant, Civil Rights leader, Pastor Southhall Brown, Sr. stated that the event “meant the whole world to [him]” and that “there is an old adage that says we either come together or we hang together…there are some things that we, in the black community need… to come together [on and], do and say…this nation needs to rise up and actually live up to when it says, so loudly and so proudly, ‘oh say can we see.’ We are not the ‘land of the brave’ because there are a lot of us that are afraid today. We are not the ‘land of the free’ because there are a lot of people that are still living because their minds are in slavery and they don’t understand what it’s really all about.”
Along the route of the march many began chants of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “No Justice, No Peace.” The signs they carried provided a look into what many were feeling while they marched through the city. Some donned phrases such as “To be black in America is to be guilty until proven innocent,” and “I am not your target practice.” When they finally reached City Hall, organizers of the march called for a continuation of unity throughout the community. They asked that not only do we support each other in other acts of protest but that we also support the politicians that support the black community by exercising our right to vote. When the festivities on the steps of City Hall concluded, many marched again through the streets back to Forsyth Park. The Savannah chapter of ‘Black Lives Matter’ in co-ordination with the chapter in Columbia, South Carolina has forty members in the hostess city and is looking to enhance their numbers. They are also in the process of creating a Black Lives Matter Christian Church and are seeking 20 families and singles to help them start.
They can be reached through their website at www.metup.com/ Black- Lives- Matter Savannah/ or (912) 268- 1890.