Graduates plan peaceful protest in support of Black Lives Matter movement

Several+Lafayette+students+joined+a+peaceful+protest+in+support+of+the+Black+Lives+Matter+movement+in+O%27Fallon+on+Monday%2C+June+1.

Shannon Worley

Several Lafayette students joined a peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in O'Fallon on Monday, June 1.

Makayla Archambeault, Assistant Web Editor

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 has inspired renewed action in the Black Lives Matter movement around the country, including in the Lafayette community.

Some Class of 2020 graduates have planned a peaceful protest on Saturday, June 13 at 11 a.m. It will begin at the corner of Highway 109 and Clayton Road with some student speakers and a Privilege Walk. After the opening ceremony, those who attend will march to the police station located in Wildwood Town Center.

LHS graduates Malayka Walton and Shannon Worley have taken the lead in organizing the event.

“It started in my Sunday school class actually when we were discussing racism in America and in the world and how we as Christians should react to that. [I decided to plan this event] after seeing and hearing about how many people don’t think there’s racism in West County,” Worley said. “I’ve witnessed this growing up my entire life. I wanted to spread awareness of the racism that exists here. I knew I wanted to do something, so I reached out to Malayka and asked her to help me.”

Walton hopes that her participation in the planning of this event will help her to be remembered in Wildwood as a catalyst for change.

“I think this is the mark I’ll make on Wildwood. When I came here, my family was the first black one we knew of in Westglen Farms. As a result, we were the victims of several hate crimes. I’ve lived around racist people, went to schools with racist teachers and been bullied for it all my life. So, it really hurts for people to say that racism is a city problem,” Walton said. “I think it’s important to let people know that when we ignore the problem it hurts people. There are more kids like me in these suburbs, kids that feel alone and isolated and are bullied for something they’ll never be able to change. This is for them. I hope that if people see that racism exists here they can try to be better so that no kid has to feel as alone as I did.”

Together, Walton and Worley worked to organize the event and recruited fellow classmates Katie Barefield, Nick Berry, Sydney Berry, Grace Kirtley and Teni Toriola to help make their idea a reality.

“We all thought it would be a great idea to hold a protest specifically for our community because it’s an important conversation to have and gives people a chance to use their voice,” Sydney said.

The group promoted the event on social media and worked to ensure a safe environment for those wishing to attend.

“We are making every effort to make this protest a family-friendly and safe event. We have been working with the police and with the city in order to make this as safe as possible. We will be walking on sidewalks and we will be distributing masks to those who do not have them. We will be practicing social distancing. We also will have adult volunteers scattered throughout the route to hand out water and snacks. We also will have people watching to make sure we maintain peace,” Worley said.

Before the march through Wildwood, speakers from the Class of 2020 have been selected to give speeches about what the movement means to them. Along with Nick Berry and Sydney Berry, Marsean Fisher was selected to give a speech at the event.

“I am passionate about the progression of black people in America, and feel the actions that took place and that have taken place many years before George Floyd are unjust and when Sydney presented the opportunity for me to speak I was all aboard,” Fisher said. “It’s disheartening that we even have to fight for equality, but it is what it is and we will continue to fight. It’s a matter of my life, my little brother’s life, my future kid’s lives and so on. We have to fight now so one of our own isn’t the next trending hashtag. It means everything.”

Rising junior Issy Grosz plans to attend the event to show her support for the black community.

“I think that events like this have always been super important but they have been just ignored because to a lot of people, this wasn’t enough of a problem for them to act or to really even care. But to the black community, this has always been super important because events like this shape their whole lives,” Grosz said.

“I’m hoping this event will be an opportunity to open the eyes of many people in West County. In the past working with STL Spark, I’ve been able to witness how generous this community is. I really hope that this event allows people to realize this is a really important movement that impacts us all so they should get involved and do their part in helping promote change,” Worley said.

For more information about the event, Nick Berry (@nick.berry), Sydney Berry (@sydneyberryyy), Malayka Walton (@malaykaw), Shannon Worley (@shannonworley) and Katie Barefield (@kaitlynbarefield) are available via Instagram.