More than 60 local activists and community members came together Friday evening for the #SpeakUpSpeakOut rally, a peaceful demonstration in Travis Park to continue the fight for equality, justice, and love and understanding for and among the black community as well as other disenfranchised groups. It was the first official #SpeakUpSpeakOut rally in San Antonio.
#SpeakUpSpeakOut is an organization founded in New York that encourages communities to speak out against police brutality, hate crimes, and racially motivated violence.
The organization’s platform pushes for cops to wear body cameras, immediately and clearly state their reason for pulling someone over, and respect people of color who are licensed to carry a gun. It also advocates for creating incentives for people of color to join the criminal justice field and assigning officers of color to areas with high concentrations of people of color.
On Friday, several cities across the nation – including Tampa, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin – held similar rallies at 6 p.m. Sarah Mesa, a San Antonio-native who said she is “new” to activism, organized San Antonio’s peaceful demonstration.
“Our voices are louder together and I think the more we come together as a community, the more likely we are to see change,” she said. “I think that this gathering is just a drop in the puddle of all that we need to do and all that we have done.”
The event is one of several that have occurred across the city to protest police shootings of black people, something that has happened both nationally and in San Antonio. Friday’s demonstration featured a series of community speakers including activist John-David Jones, SATX-4 member Mike Lowe, and Debbie Bush, whose nephew Marquise Jones was shot and killed by a San Antonio Police Department officer in 2014. The three of them also spoke at a larger #BlackLivesMatter rally and march that began in Travis Park two weeks ago.
(Read more: #BlackLivesMatter Activists: ‘Wake Up, San Antonio’)
A number of other crowd members, both black and non-black, spoke candidly about their hopes for the city’s future regarding racism, gentrification, and police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement, Jones said, is not about encouraging violence against police.
“We are fighting for something, not against something,” Jones told the crowd, adding that justice is the “minimum” of what the community should fight for. Beyond that, he said, there’s love, equality, and understanding, and it’s our obligation and responsibility to actively champion for each. “It’s with that same responsibility that we have to come together…but we’ve got to instill that same amount of responsibility into the powers that be. City Councilmembers, our congressmen, our president, we have to start holding people accountable.”
Kim Anderson, whose brother – a black man – was shot and killed five years ago by another black man, started Gifts of Love From Above, a local organization that provides support, guidance and mentorship for children whose parents or guardians have been killed by gun violence. She said turning the mirror on ourselves is just as important in this movement.
“Having crime amongst each other, we have to start with ourselves, we have to value our own lives – black-on-black crime, any nationality killing each other, not just police, though that’s a big reason why we’re here,” she said. “We have to stand together and stop killing each other and (make) our lives matter and (build) our communities.”
Lowe, who referenced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and Thursday night speech at the Republican National Convention, encouraged those in attendance and the entire country to remember the painful history regarding the disenfranchisement of black people in the U.S.
Saying “black lives matter” is “not hate speech, that’s honest speech,” he said. “If we look at America’s history, and we take our halos off, and our angel wings off, we will realize America has never been great.”
It’s one thing to show up to protests and rallies and be vocal about the inequity and other systemic issues facing the black community, Lowe said, but “occupying space at the ballot (box) and in City Hall” is essential to enact real change.
“This is how you build from the ground up and shape the foundation so much so that politicians have to make a change,” he said.
Top image: Johnathan Jones, 24, leads the crowd in a chant during his closing remarks as he and other community members took time to speak. Photo by Anthony Francis.