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Bladen County Speak Up Protest Promotes Peaceful Conversations

Two Bladen County residents requested a peaceful protest to promote conversations about inequality and injustices for people of color. Toni McKoy and Andrew Gill organized the first, “Bladen County Speak Up Protest” on Saturday, June 6, 2020. The protest was held outside at the Spaulding-Monroe Cultural Center in Bladenboro.

There were an estimated 40 people in attendance during the event. McKoy said she contacted the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office to organize the protest. Bladenboro Police Officers, Bladenboro Council members, business leaders, emergency responders, and others attended the event. 

McKoy opened the protest up thanking everyone for coming and saying, “All cops aren’t bad, we aren’t saying that at all. We just want to be treated equally.”

Gill concurred with McKoy’s statement and added, “I want our voices to be heard.” 

Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, confirmed the efforts of McKoy and Gill are for peaceful protests, and the two organizers are working with the Sheriff for more “Speak Up” protests.

Following are some of the topics covered during the conversations at the protests:

  1. Discussions about injustices and inequality need to start at the kitchen table and continue out into communities. 
  2. Don’t let anyone say your voice won’t be heard, McKoy repeatedly stated. She encouraged others to take a stand and speak up about issues. 
  3. Stop stereotypes about police and people of color. 
  4. Police need more education, support, and training. According to some of the protesters, cultural training and scenario training is needed to help law enforcement.  
  5. Mental and Behavioral Health Services are lacking in minority communities. PTSD and mental health need to be provided to the communities and to police officers, according to Gill. 
  6. The spiritual aspects of individuals need to be addressed, one protester explained.  
  7. Racism is deep-rooted. It is generational, according to NAACP President, Rev. Corey Lyons. Mindsets have been passed down, and it will take a lot of work to make a change, he explained.
  8. Remember history. Segregation was not that long ago. 
  9. Equality is lacking for people of color in the business sector, education and justice system, and in health care. 
  10. Research is needed in governing laws and grants in local areas and at the federal level. 
  11. Dictionaries can offer assistance when trying to communicate with someone from a different culture.
  12. Black lives matter is not fighting for black supremacy, but for equality, according to John Bowen, who is Bladenboro native. 

At this time, another “Bladen County Speak Up Protest” is in the planning stages. BladenOnline.com will bring more information as soon as it is made available. 

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