Even before the Black Lives Matter rally began, protesters lined the streets in Oklahoma City early Sunday afternoon demanding justice for George Floyd and other black people killed in racist incidents across the nation.
Half an hour before the rally was scheduled to start at the corner of Northeast 36th Street and Kelley Avenue, protesters lined the sides of the road and stood in the median, raising signs bearing Floyd’s name and other messages, including “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe,” while shouting these and other phrases.
Later protesters rallied around community leaders speaking about racism, social injustice, police brutality and white supremacy, among other topics, and marched through the city from 5 to 9 p.m., peacefully advocating for one cause — change.
It was that same cause that drew several members of the OU community to the rally.
Janae Reeves is a recent broadcast journalism graduate from OU. During her last days in Gaylord College, she was one of several students to speak out against Peter Gade, a professor who used the N-word during his class.
Reeves emphasized the importance of being heard and standing in solidarity with black people being slain in racist encounters, citing “a bigger cause” as the reason for Sunday’s protest.
“We're not just out here for any reason, we are out here because we want to be heard,” Reeves said. “We are out here because we want to make change — positive change. We want to see change and we have to talk.”
Miles Francisco, co-founder of OU’s Black Emergency Response Team — an organization that has vocally opposed racism on campus in recent months — was also on-hand to show his support for the cause.
Francisco — a native of the northeast side of Oklahoma City — shared his thoughts on the community in which he grew up and the important role it has in combating racial injustice.
“We’re right here in the heart of the east side of Oklahoma City — black side of town here. We got to hear from the parents, the mothers (and) the uncles of people who have been killed by the police here in Oklahoma, so that was incredibly powerful,” Francisco said. “But just being here, community standing with one another and showing up for each other, is crucial.”
While the crowd did appear to be predominantly black, people of other races and ethnicities participated in solidarity with black protesters.
Eddy held up the microphone for those speaking at the rally and then spoke about the injustices he observed at OU.
“Here 10 years later after my undergraduate experience, it’s in me to fight against (racism),” Eddy said. “So I learned at OU how to engage racists, to engage oppressive, powerful administrations. And I’m trying to live by the lessons I learned there and carry that out today and help my brothers and sisters.”
Kasydee Molina, a recent OU graduate, said action is one of the most crucial parts of combating racism.
“It’s really important as a white person to show up and take action, rather than just you standing behind the computer and sharing anger and frustration,” Molina said. “Because that’s really important, but it’s also really important to take action and to go and march with your friends and stand for them and with them.”
As Molina and others from the OU community showed their support by marching from the corner of 36th and Kelley to the State Capitol and eventually the Oklahoma County Jail, events remained peaceful prior to dusk.
Outside of the jail, police brought water, gave hugs and had honest discussions with protesters in an effort to maintain the tranquility that had ruled the day.
“Obviously, we've gone through some certain events at OU, we've gone through many racial incidents, and all of that,” Reeves said. “And we're here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that's to be heard, and to keep everything as peaceful as possible.”