Beyond Justice: Portrait of a Local Protest Organizer
This is my eighth installment feature in my portrait series 100 Years Strong. Commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, this series of portraits is a celebration of strength, victory and beauty featuring fierce, fearless women in Deep East Texas.
On May 25, 2020, the world watched in horror as George Floyd was senselessly murdered by 3 officers kneeling on him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he repeatedly said "I can't breathe". Then next day, hundreds of people marched to the 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police demanding justice. Unrest quickly spread nationwide and then around the world. The majority of the protests were peaceful, although some cities have been marked by rioting and looting. There were calls for justice, police reform, and even in some communities demands to eliminate the police department entirely.
Locally, Marquicia (Keke) Brown, age 24 was moved to action and felt it was important to organize a rally in Lufkin. She took the initiative to organize the Marching with a Voice, Not Violence rally. One June 6th, she brought together leaders in Lufkin -- local pastors and the chief of police to speak. There was a strong message of togetherness as a community. Speakers called for education, awareness and legitimate change. It was a beautiful, diverse and peaceful event. As Lufkin residents called for unity during the rally, an auspicious rainbow spread against the blue skies as if to signal God's blessing on this event.
"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." - Ida B. Wells-Barnett
This is a question I ask everyone, do you have a favorite motivational quote? “She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” –Proverbs 31
What inspired you to organize the ‘Marching with a Voice, Not Violence’ rally? I’ve always said that I wanted to be a positive part of change, organizing the rally was my way of not just talking about it, but being about it.
Have you ever organized something like this before? What propelled you? No. I have never done anything like this before, and I was really nervous about it. To be honest, I did not think people would show up.
What were you hoping would come out of this? In my 24 years, I’ve seen so many terrible things happen to people and people of color, I just hoped that maybe this would help open up people’s eyes to what the actual problem is.
What was noteworthy about the rally and the crowd that attended it? Unity. The only way that things will change is if we are all united in our ways of thinking. Honestly, there were more white people than brown people. That stuck out to me most of all, because we do in fact have other people fighting for and with us.
#BlackLivesMatter has often been characterized as a youth movement. What do you want to impart to other young people? Most of all, I want people to understand that #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean that only Black Lives Matter, it just means that #BlackLivesMatterToo.
Why do you think we are seeing so many young women leading? As the song says, this is a man’s world but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl. Women are awesome, so I’m not surprised!
Who are some leaders that have inspired you? Well first, my leader Pastor Tammy L Derrick, she’s been an inspiration to me since I met her. Second, Harriet Tubman, she risked her life to bring slaves to freedom. I would love to be that brave.
What’s next for you? I am going to keep doing everything I can to make a change and a difference in this world.
What advice would you give to young girls that also want to make a difference in their community? Get up, get out, and do something. How could you make it if you never even tried? Whatever it is that you want out of life, just go make it happen sis. I will always root for you!
Be a part of the movement! I am photographing 19 women of strength for my portrait series. If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story, please contact me. You can learn more about my project here - https://www.rachelloutportraits.com/19thamendment