By Jennifer Fayette
As the crowds gathered and prepared to march in downtown Milford, there was laughter and handshakes and even hugs as people who have been stuck inside due to due the pandemic reunited for the first time in months with friends and neighbors. The air was filled with hope, and solemnity for what was about to happen.
Then as they began to line up at the entrance to the parking lot of El Gigante in Milford DE, a sleepy small town that most people only know as they drive through it on their way to the beaches, a voice rang out.
It was Jayln Powell, a Milford High School and University of Delaware graduate who organized the Black Lives Matter protest. As she explained why they were gathered, she said “We are marching silently and this is because throughout history, systemically black and brown people have not had a voice.” She wrapped up with three cheers of “No justice, no peace”, a common slogan in recent protests around the nation as the crowd began walking and became quiet.
In perfect silence, the crowd marched from the parking lot on NE Front Street, across the street to the Mispillion Riverwalk Park, up to SE Front Street and turned onto Walnut Street, rounding the route back to NE Front Street. No one said a word.
When they reach the entrance to the parking lot again, one by one they kneeled down where Delaware NCAAP President Ricky Mouse Smith spoke. He spoke the last words of George Floyd. “Mama I can’t breathe”, “Officer take your knee off my neck, please, please!”. He then quoted Martin Luther King, “Someday black kids and white kids will hold hands together.”
“We are doing that”, he added. “We should live together, black, white, all races”. “This is your country too…we fill up the houses…we taught the kids.” You could see his words having a powerful effect on the hundreds that knelt, some of them with tears in their eyes. He wrapped up by saying, “Young folks you’re in charge now, you’re the future. We old folks handing it over to you guys…you are our future, make us proud of you guys. Make us proud of you guys, make us one country. One country that don’t look at race, one country that work together, one country that who can marry each other.”
After he spoke, one by one in silence, the crowd raised their fists in the air. After eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the time that George Floyd fought for his life, they stood up and moved off the streets that Milford Police had blocked off, and gathered and the Veterans Memorial as organizer Jalyn Powell wrapped up the event by thanking everyone, including the law enforcement who also marched, family and friends and everyone who showed up in solidarity.
“Today we took a walk in purpose…today we left our footprint in the sand on the beach of history, today we changed the course of the wave,” she said. “Let’s stop being comfortable with being comfortable that this is just the way it is.” Powell pleaded with the crowd and encouraged everyone to educate themselves on reforms, history and politics.
She ended by reading the poem by Maya Angelou “On the Pulse of Morning”.
…So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear…