On June 7 at Plano Municipal Center, founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry Cheryl Jackson and several speakers brought together approximately two thousand attendees in a collective effort to raise awareness around systemic racism, pray together and work toward positive change. It was Plano’s latest rally for racial justice and equality on the heels of almost two weeks of similar protests, rallies and marches across the country.
Cheryl Jackson opened up the rally by sharing a sentiment that has reverberated throughout the nation: “I don’t usually protest, but this time I had to.” She told the story of how quickly the idea for this event developed, springing from her jumping onto social media last weekend to share her fears and frustration about how her black family members may be treated based solely on the color of their skin.
“I’m hungry for change,” she chanted repeatedly with the crowd.
S. Lee Merritt talked to the crowd about his work as a civil rights attorney, specifically about his work for Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed African American man who was fatally shot earlier this year in Georgia. “There is a fundamental problem with American police,” he remarked. Merritt cited a higher number of people killed by American police in comparison with other countries, and a more prevalent enforcement of drug laws on black and brown communities.
Plano Police Chief Ed Drain spoke about the way a police force should be serving and protecting its city’s residents. “The police should treat everybody with dignity and respect, and with fairness,” he said.
First United Methodist Church of Plano lead pastor Matt Gaston shared how his friends of color have positively impacted his life and shown him the ways he needed to grow. He went on to talk about how his experiences have reminded him that the fight for equality isn’t over, and that he wants to ensure he is a part of that fight.
Dr. Conway Edwards, lead pastor at One Community Church, advised adults in the crowd to watch how they speak around children, saying that no one is born with racism; it is taught. He also directly addressed those who practice religion: “Do not tell me you believe in a higher power, and you treat somebody like trash. If you are a person of faith, then you will love other people as equal to you.”
“Every voice matters and everybody belongs. But he called out for his mother, and his voice didn’t matter. His name is George Floyd. Say his name,” exclaimed Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, referring to an African American man who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer was videotaped kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Marshall reflected on her time processing the death of George Floyd. “I thought about my husband…I thought about my two sons who peacefully protested this week.”
“I’m optimistic there are better days ahead,” she said.
Thirteen-year-old Jaxson Turner, a Plano resident who also founded the nonprofit Never 2 Young 2 Care two years ago, collected 5,000 bottles of water to hand out on the very hot day. When asked what he hoped would come of all the protests across the country, he replied, “The change for better rules, for the police to be nicer to every race.”
Several of the speakers urged that one of the most effective ways to bring about change in the community is first through registering to vote, and then by voting in each election. Five Volunteer Deputy Registrars (VDR) attended the rally yesterday, and said they registered dozens of attendees to vote.
“This isn’t about being Republican or Democrat, nor is it about one person in Washington D.C. This is about educating people to vote on every position and policy on the ballot,” shared VDR and Plano resident Shannon Kmak. “Our local elections are just as critical – and often have more impact on our daily lives.”
If you’d like to get educated on the candidates and policies as you prepare to vote in elections, visit vote411.org.