Teens Organize Black Lives Matter March in Berkley

Teens Organize Black Lives Matter March in Berkley

(Alissa Malerman, June 17, 2020)

Berkley, MI – Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Terbrack did not hesitate to get involved in the fight for police reform and racial justice after the world erupted in protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, who was killed in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

After protesting at other community events, she took it upon herself to bring the conversation home to Berkley by organizing a peaceful march that took place at 5 p.m. Friday, June 12 .

“There’s a lot of racial injustices that are brought upon our schools, upon everyone around us that don’t really get talked about — about being afraid to stand up.” Charlotte said Friday. “But now’s the time, I think, I needed to step up and bring something here to make a change.”

With the help of the Black Activist Mobility Network (B.A.M.N.), a Metro Detroit based organization, and with the support of her brother, Berkley Mayor Dan Terbrack, Charlotte organized the event, which included a march from Berkley High School to City Hall, an address from the mayor, and testimonials from local youths and activists affected by racism.

B.A.M.N. organizer Marshele Parker said the group had organized similar marches in Troy and Birmingham. The group usually sees crowds of about 600, she said, and she predicted a similar attendance in Berkley as cars began to fill the high school parking lot and a helicopter circled the grassy field.

“We try to organize most in suburbs, not just downtown, and hit where prejudice is,” Parker said. “We are all a family and we all stand in solidarity.”

The group passed out donated masks, water, and even cookies that were frosted in “Black Lives Matter” and “We Matter” designs.

The crowd stayed socially distant and gathered in a semi-circle around a table of supplies, as Parker, Charlotte, and other B.A.M.N. members stepped onto the picnic table benches and spoke into bullhorns to address the protesters.

“We are here to not only find activists in suburban communities, but we are an intersectionalist group that works for all people in all movements,” Parker said while introducing the group.


Ready to March

Among those at the rally were Berkley High School seniors Annie Citron, Sophia Papadopoulos, Charlotte Capuano and Mercy senior Aisling Heaphy, all of Huntington Woods.

This was not their first protest, they said, as they felt it was important to attend previous community protests in Huntington Woods and Berkley.

Sisters Aliya and Suraiya Siddiqi said they came to the march because they were interested in what the mayor had to say. As Berkley High School students from Lathrup Village, they said they were curious when they came across a posting on social media.

“I saw the mayor was going to be here, and wanted to know what he had to say,” Suraiya said. Speakers from B.A.M.N. rallied the crowd, and called for a redistribution of police funding into more community and social services.

They spoke about the recent death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and urged the crowd to speak out against police brutality, demand justice, and work for legislative change.

The protesters then made their way along Catalpa toward Woodward, shouting chants such as “Black Lives Matter,” “no justice, no peace,” and “say his name (George Floyd); say her name (Breonna Taylor).”

Cars honked their horns in support as the peaceful crowd made their way to City Hall on 12 Mile Road. Roads were briefly closed as police escorted the marchers.

‘Berkley stands behind our fellow Americans, this cause, and Black Lives Matter’

In the gazebo behind City Hall, the crowd gathered again after the march, most six feet apart, as

Mayor Terbrack addressed the protesters. He first gave credit to his sister for putting it together, and thanked the participants for “stepping up and taking action and getting involved to drive change in our country.” He acknowledged that he did not have the experience that black Americans have, and urged others to “seek first to understand.” He also acknowledged council members and promised their support. “I need to be very clear that every member of the Berkley City Council, every elected representative of the city of Berkley, stands behind our fellow Americans, this cause and Black Lives Matter,” he said to the cheering crowd.

He spoke about the importance of listening not only to stories about intimidation and violence, but “the small things,” listing a handful of grievances he has heard black family members and friends reveal about how their daily lives are affected by racism.

“If people can’t be their authentic selves in our country, then we have obvious systemic problems and we need to change them,” he said. “It’s our duty, and it’s my duty to use my power and my privilege (as a white male American) to support my black brothers and sisters because Black Lives Matter.”
Terbrack ended by saying that listening is just the beginning. Next, it’s time to take action, he said.

“Part of that action is marching, and part of it is voting and electing the right people all the way from the White House to City Hall,” he said before handing the bullhorn off to his sister.

Speaking up Charlotte kicked off a series of speakers, who were invited to the gazebo to speak about how their lives have been affected by racism.

Those who spoke up ranged in method, from personal narrative, to poetry, to rap, to express why they see a need for systemic change.

Terance (TJ) Bowers, who graduated from Berkley High School in 2014, was one of many to deliver testimony during the rally. He lamented how young people were only taught about European history, while the history of minorities and undesired parts of history are often erased from traditional learning.

“You have to know your actual history before you can acknowledge it, accept it, and do something about it,” Bowers said. But in order to know these things, he said, you have to be taught. He urged the crowd to “do research and know your history. Learn different cultures, and not just the good parts.”

What can you do?

B.A.M.N. urges readers who want to forward the movement to have “difficult yet necessary conversations at home with family and friends to combat the inherent prejudice and racism that is directed toward the black community.”

“We want everyone to know that this movement is not a trend or a hashtag,” said Caitlin-Ifreke Ukpong of B.A.M.N.

“Members of the black community have to deal with the violence every single day when we have rights too, just like everyone else. We are working to abolish and reform our justice system in whatever way that we can. This is the most powerful this movement has been in decades, which is why it is important that we refuse to let up!”

For information and seek other marches happening in the area, visit the B.A.M.N. Instagram page @bamnrevolution. To organize a protest in your area, contact B.A.M.N. through Instagram messenger. For more resources and toolkits, visit Black Lives Matter

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