As Sean Holland prepared those present to sit in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, honoring those lost to police brutality and injustice, he asked them to think of their "why."
Why did those there want to be a part of this movement? Why did they want to be at this event and support Black Lives Matter? Why did they want change?
As Holland asked the protesters to think of their "why," he felt his.
“Let me tell you a story,” Holland said. “My grandmother could not read because they forced her to pick cotton versus go to school, and she (told) me ‘Make sure you always get your education.’ We would have to go to the mailbox and get her mail and read it. She’s my ‘why.'"
Hundreds gathered on Saturday evening, the day after Juneteenth, a celebration of the ending of slavery, at Lansing’s City Hall Plaza for the Black Lives Matter’s “Community Call to Action.” The event was the first in-person sponsored event during this time by the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter.
Outside of Lansing’s City Hall and stretching onto Capitol Avenue, the Call to Action featured speakers from the leaders of the Lansing chapter and members of the Lansing community, a dance from younger members of the group and a moment of silence, honoring George Floyd and the other victims of police brutality.
Led by one of the organizer’s of the Lansing chapter, Angela Waters Austin, the group listed their demands for Lansing and the nation, the first of which runs parallel to the requests of other Lansing movements: the resignation of Mayor Andy Schor.
“Time to go Andy”
Schor met with Black Lives Matter Lansing during an online panel three weeks ago, where participants berated him with questions and he later issued an apology for being unprepared.
During the online panel discussion, Black Lives Matter member Michael Lynn Jr. said that Schor couldn’t even deliver an answer to what equity meant and what it meant in this situation.
Lynn Jr. was present on Saturday as both a speaker and security, one of the few that walked the area armed to protect those present.
A group of protesters led by Paul Birdsong marched to Schor’s house a week later, where they opened a dialogue of their demands including defunding the police and investing in Black communities.
After another meeting with Birdsong on the Capitol steps the next day, Schor created a racial equity and anti-racism fund. The fund proposed to pull $100,000 from the police fund for the remaining fiscal year and to start with an investment of $170,000 in the fund total.
The groups, including Black Lives Matter Lansing and Birdsong’s protesters, were unhappy with the proposal. Losing trust in Schor, protesters' attention turned from demanding change to demanding his resignation.
“Why are we here?" Waters Austin said. "We are here because we (demand) for Mayor Andy’s resignation. Because City Hall belongs to the people. … It is time to go Andy. This is our house. This is the people’s house of Lansing.”
Black Lives Matter’s three other demands
Black Lives Matter Lansing listed three other demands apart from the resignation of Schor. Defunding the police was at the center of these.
“We demand that the police be defunded because they have never protected Black people,” Waters Austin said. “We demand the police to be defunded because they serve only to protect capitalism. Our blood, our sweat and our tears fertilize this soil. … We are done dying.”
Their next demand was a follow-up to defunding the police: Investing the defunded money into what the community needs.
Waters Austin said a 20% cut in the police budget could yield almost $9 million to invest in the services that underrepresented communities need. Last fiscal year, over $44.8 million were allocated to the police fund.
“Don’t let them fool you,” Waters Austin said. “Demand what you need in your community. It is going to take all of us to set the agenda. Nobody gets to decide what happens to our money but us. ... We will build the budget for Lansing. We will make sure we get what we need.”
The final demand from Black Lives Matter Lansing stretched all the way to the Oval Office.
“To that impostor sitting in the White House that had the audacity to schedule a rally on Juneteenth, in Tulsa, you gotta go," Waters Austin said. "We demand the resignation of Donald Trump.”
Sounds of change
Prior to taking an 8 minute, 46 second moment of silence, Sean Holland delivered one of the finishing thoughts on the night.
Holland, a pastor in the Lansing community, urged for those to realize that change happens from the inside out. It was his call to action for those there.
The pastor told those there that this is now beyond just prayer.
“We are well beyond prayer,'' Holland said. “It is time to protest and demand change.”
Holland's last thoughts were another call to action and resonated with the crowd for the entirety of the moment of silence. He reminded those present to think of their "why."
“As we prepare to honor those, I want everyone to get a good ‘why,'" Holland said. “Why do you want to be a part of this movement because there are those in this city that say ‘Lansing is fine, our schools are fine, our police department is fine, our citizens are fine,' but that is not the Lansing we know. We deserve better.”
Black Lives Matter concluded the event by announcing a bigger one. On June 20 at 12 p.m., they will have a statewide Black Lives Matter protest at the Michigan State Capitol. The event will include all chapters of Black Lives Matter Michigan.
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