Among the most direct signs at a march for racial equality in Centennial was one that read: “Stop killing black people.”
At an unlikely site for social unrest, more than 100 people — from young children to seniors — marched for racial equality June 8 at Willow Creek Park in west Centennial.
“I think it's really sad that a man's life had to be taken for us to face reality,” a young girl told the crowd after it marched in a loop around the park. She stood among many with signs decrying racial inequality that echoed the message, “Black lives matter.”
The neighborhood event came amid ongoing protests in downtown Denver following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, an incident that sparked nationwide unrest.
At the quiet suburban park nestled in a sprawling residential area, the Centennial event was billed as a "family friendly walk for justice," as a social media post called it.
As community members took turns speaking in the mostly white crowd, a theme emerged: listening.
“Listen to what the leaders of Black Lives Matter are saying” and support the movement, “not hijack it,” one young man said. One person in the crowd held a sign that read, "I will never understand, but I still stand" — a message that has become popular among people who acknowledge that white individuals don't have the same experiences as black individuals, but still want to support them.
The downtown Denver protests have featured messaging aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, which opposes "state-sanctioned violence" against black people, along with "anti-Black racism," according to its website.
Many community members at Willow Creek Park — from older residents to teenagers and young children — took turns stepping forward and sharing stories of experiencing racism or watching racial inequality where they grew up, and offering thoughts on what steps they could take to push back on those norms. Voting and spending money in a way that supports their values came up as suggestions.
One way to move forward is to keep listening, said Chesney Midcap, a 31-year-old black mother. She delivered one of the crowd's longest reflections.
“My experience with racism started when I was 6. I was new to Colorado — I moved from Los Angeles. And I was in first grade, and I was told by another student that N-words are not allowed to look at his books that he had with him,” Midcap, who lives in the west Littleton area, told the crowd.
From then forward, she said, the talks began: Her mother told her “you aren't like these people here, your hair is different, you can't do certain things, you can't speak a certain way,” Midcap said.
She said she learned to monitor how she acted when she went to people's houses, to keep her hands out of her pockets so people won't think she was stealing, and to “show utmost respect” to police when pulled over on the road, she said.
“And I never realized that other people didn't have the same fears until really recently,” Midcap said. “It was pointed out like, this is what we've dealt with for decades — centuries — of how to be around white people and, especially, law enforcement. And it's eye-opening when my husband who's white says that he never had these conversations with his parents.”
She told the crowd to keep hearing stories and learning.
“It'll fuel a fire,” Midcap said. “And what I told one of my friends was: I may be igniting the fire, but you guys are all fanning it into flames. So keep doing what you're doing.”
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