Kinnelon Community Members Support ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement

The+march+for+Black+Lives+Matter+in+Kinnelon+on+June+7.

Michael Bateman

The march for Black Lives Matter in Kinnelon on June 7.

Activism sparked action in Kinnelon last week with a  “Black Lives Matter” march in honor of those who lost their lives due to police brutality and a protest against racism.

On June 7 at 3 p.m., members of the community met at the Kinnelon Public Library and marched down Kinnelon Road. Many brought signs and repeated chants down the street. It was a peaceful and organized protest that honored George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and hundreds of other black lives that have been lost due to police brutality.

After meeting back at the library, everyone kneeled and had an 8-minute moment of silence to honor Floyd. A few minutes in, a counter-protester from the parking lot began to disrupt the silence. Suddenly, hundreds of voices spoke up and repeated Floyd’s name and demanded justice. Later, speaker Dijuan Higgians mentioned this powerful moment, “Before when we were doing a moment of silence, it was actually supposed to be silent. However, you all heard one person make one disrespectful comment and you said, ‘We aren’t going to be silent this time.’” 

Attendees all sat on the green listening to speakers from the community and nearby talk about their own experiences with racism and how this movement has affected their lives. Speaker Jabari Jackson said, “In school, we do not learn about black history or how to be consciously anti-racist. I graduated 10 years ago, [and] not once have I used the quadratic formula or chemistry; however, I have experienced racism since then.”

The speakers seemed to move the audience and exposed them to the racism that goes on within our own town. Senior Emma Warras, who attended the protest said, “This was the most empowering and impactful thing I have ever been a part of. I left feeling so overwhelmed with emotion and [the] need for change. I am so proud of everyone who was involved, and I hope that Kinnelon continues to support the movement because nothing will be changed without persistence.” 

Most were pleasantly surprised with the turnout of the event, especially since only 4.4% of the Kinnelon community are people of color (POC). Organizer Sydney Johnson said, “People didn’t know how much support was there. Nobody expected that much. Kinnelon’s ideology is not with the Black Lives Matter movement, but seeing people I haven’t seen in years come out to support me and POC meant a lot. It was one of the best days of my life.”

Sydney Johnson, along with Madeline Florio and Karin Flannery organized the peaceful protest and their goal was to spread the message of the Black Lives Matter movement in our community. “Our message is love over hate. Love each other regardless of skin color. We will not stand for hate and racism anymore.” 

Aileen Florio

Johnson is a former Kinnelon High School graduate who wants to demonstrate to current students that “racism and black lives matter is not a trend. It is about people who look like me, dying every day for no reason. Making racist jokes and using the n-word is not okay. Posting a black photo on Instagram, to claim you are not racist, is not enough. People still treat us as if it was 50 years ago when we had to drink from separate water fountains. There are times when I fear for my own life and the way I may be treated.”

Madeline Florio, a former Kinnelon High School graduate said, “Having demonstrations like this in small towns may seem silly at first; since there are fewer accounts of police brutality, it is easy to say ‘the problem’ doesn’t exist here. Racism is perpetuated by many Kinnelon residents, as was made clear by backlash we received while planning the protest. It is the same racism that excludes, oppresses, and kills Black folks across the country and world. It is very much our problem. I’d like to think that this protest was the first step towards holding Kinnelon accountable, making reparations, and becoming a truly equitable place for all people.”

Johnson added, “This is not the end; this was only the first step to changing the system. We have bigger and better things coming.”