A diverse crowd of about 150 people, with both young and old represented, gathered on the campus of Oklahoma State University Saturday evening for a March for Black Lives.
The march was organized by a group of OSU students and originally scheduled to coincide with Juneteenth or Freedom Day. It’s a commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they had been freed more than two years earlier with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The story of Juneteenth fit with the themes of the evening as a line-up of speakers expressed frustration with the slow pace of progress toward true racial equality in American society and exhorted the people in attendance to stand with them to continue pushing for change.
“Systemic racism isn’t just some distant, historical problem,” event co-organizer Payton Dougherty, an OSU senior, said. “It manifests in everything from our individual thoughts to policies and practices entrenched in our institutions. We must understand that each new equitable law, policy or diversity and inclusion committee that we fight to establish cannot just reverse the effects of centuries worth of policies designed to oppress and dehumanize an entire race of people. And that is part of why the fight for racial justice doesn’t begin and end with policies. We need to win over hearts and minds.”
Sheri Dickerson, Director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, told the crowd she doesn’t write speeches anymore because she doesn’t have to, and she’s tired of giving speeches but she will never stop amplifying the message that Black lives matter.
She challenged the people present to sustain their advocacy and use their words, their votes, their time and their money to amplify the message and support those who are giving the message.
“We need you to do more than march,” she said, “I have said many times, I’m no longer looking for allies, I have enough of them. I’m looking for accomplices, those that are going to get into the trenches with me, and to my white allies, those that will put your body on the line to protect those in Black and brown skin.”
OSU football standout Chuba Hubbard, who was involved in a very public dispute with Coach Mike Gundy over his respect for and relationship with Black players, joined the march, along with a contingent of other athletes from the university.
Hubbard later stood and addressed the crowd. He said he knows people are aware of the situation within the football program but he wasn’t there to discuss that.
“I really just want to use this time to talk about educating yourselves,” Hubbard said. “That’s the biggest thing, you know what I’m saying? I mean, all y’all can come up here and march, wear Black Lives Matter shirts, put your fists up and do all that stuff but what really matters is educating your mind and pass it on to other people.
“This is the most powerful thing. And you’ve got to use it, and use if powerfully. Pass it on every single day … We can all do something this week, but what about next week and the week after? I’m going to keep my foot on the gas, I know y’all are going to keep your foot on the gas … I’m Canadian and people are like, ‘Oh, you don’t have a say in this.’ No, this is Black lives. We’ve got Black lives all around the world … I just want y’all to know we’re going to keep doing the best we can. We may not see the change we want, but our kids and our kid’s kids will.”