GLASGOW – A Black Lives Matter prayer vigil took place Tuesday afternoon in front of the Barren County Courthouse.
Among those who spoke during the event were Glasgow City Councilman Joe Trigg, Michael Rice, pastor of First Baptist Church, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kentucky State Conference’s Cave Area Branch President Trevent Hayes and Barren County Cooperative Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences and activist LaToya Drake.
Drake described the large crowd that turned out for the event as being “diverse and beautiful.”
The purpose of the event was to bring attention to prejudice.
“This is an issue that affects every black person around the country, around the world, and folks are sad and tired and scared for their lives and they just want to feel respected and loved by their communities,” she said.
Drake also said she felt Glasgow handled itself wonderfully as a community during the event.
There was no violence. Police officers stood by and watched and listened.
“I’m proud of Glasgow. It was just a nice fellowship. We had a therapeutic experience ..., and I think it went better than expected,” she said.
During her talk, Drake asked the crowd to lie down on the concrete and meditate for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, because that is the length of time that a police officer kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis before Floyd died. Floyd was taken into custody by police after being accused by a deli employee for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes.
As many people lay face down on the concrete during that short time period, different people would yell “I can’t breathe!” “Momma!” and “Man, can you give me just a little more air?”
Drake talked about her own experiences with prejudice and shared a story about an incident that happened when she was a child that has caused her to have trust issues.
It was while her family was living in an apartment complex in Glasgow that Drake befriended an elderly lady who also lived there. She would often ride her bicycle to see the woman.
“I felt love and accepted by her,” Drake said. “But she wanted to point out that I was the nicest colored girl she had ever met. I wanted to know what was wrong with me. Why can’t I just be a nice girl? I’m grown now, but these types of micro-aggressions, that’s what you call them, they still happen.”
She continued that everyone can heal together and said she loves that the community had turned out for the prayer vigil.
“I want you to have these kinds of conversations with your friends because we all have trust issues. My trust issues just relate a lot to the color of my skin,” she said.
Hayes was thankful the community could come together as one, but said he was sad for the reason that brought everyone together.
“In life, we should be accountable for the things that we say, as well as the things that we do. In the recent untimely deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others, we are asking for accountability,” he said.
“We as citizens are to be held accountable for our actions and so should the ones that took the lives of these individuals. I know the majority of law enforcement who have taken their sworn oath to protect and serve will do just that and we are here to tell you that we will stand with you and we will support you.”
He continued that the NAACP is working on national, state and local levels with civic and community leaders and law enforcement to try to prevent events that led to Arbery, Taylor and Floyd and others’ deaths from happening.
He asked that if those who turned out for the prayer vigil participate in demonstrations that they do so respectfully.
“Whether you agree or disagree, we ask that you respect the opinion of others as you are seeking respect for yours,” he said.
Trigg shared with the crowd advice he has repeatedly given his son from the time he was a first-grader until the time he joined the Air Force.
That advice is: “No matter if you are right or wrong, always err on the side of safety,” he said.
Trigg read portions of two quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of which said: “‘... injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ The latest injustice in Minnesota has threatened justice all across America. Unfortunately, it shows us again that this type of action can happen to any one of us anytime and anywhere.”
Among those who turned out for the event was Marie A. Johnson, who said she and her elderly mother, as well as her adult son, have been victims of prejudice.
She referenced an incident that occurred in May 2019 when police came to her home to arrest her son, but he wasn’t there. He was actually in jail and had been for more than three months.
Johnson said police officers kicked in her door, pushed her and sprayed her elderly mother.
“I’m afraid for my life, … for my mother’s life,” she said. “Enough is enough. We are humans.”
Damion Segarra was also at the prayer vigil. He shared a story about the police confusing him with his younger brother, who had been in trouble.
“They think we all look the same. They think we are all criminals. They think we are thugs. They think we are aggressive. They think we have a gun on us. That we sell drugs (and) we are drug addicts,” he said. “I’m not that. I grew up in the hood and I’m not that.”
Segarra has a young son and said he doesn’t want him to grow up in that lifestyle.
“I don’t want the police to look at him the same way they look at me,” he said.
As for the crowd that turned out for the prayer vigil, Segarra said: “I think there should have been a bigger crowd, but the crowd here is great.”