‘Black Lives Matter Meets Schwenksville’, Peacefully and Successfully
SCHWENKSVILLE PA – What organizers said began only five days earlier as “an idea and a hope,” on Sunday (June 14, 2020) became a peaceful but emotion- and passion-filled rally of more than 250 people, who converged on the sunny plaza outside Schwenksville’s soon-to-be new borough hall and clamored for an end to racism in all its forms.
The Facebook event that successfully called them together from noon to 2 p.m. – not just from around the Perkiomen Valley, but from Norristown, and Pottstown, and along the Main Line too – was labeled as “Black Lives Matter Meets Schwenksville.”
Public attendance exceeded expectations, according to Sheena Kenny, who helped direct the day’s activities and personally introduced each of about a dozen speakers.
Although those featured and protesters alike focused primarily on injustices perpetrated against African Americans, particularly following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis MN, some testimonies and conversations sought to frame what they called a national lack of tolerance as a broader picture.
“It’s systemic racism in how we educate our kids,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (at right), whose Pennsylvania 4th District includes the borough. “It’s systemic racism in housing, in jobs, in opportunity, in mental health, in addiction services. We criminalize that which we should not criminalize, and then we look at people of color, sadly in this country, and they suffer the injuries.”
There is no denying Floyd’s video-recorded death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has been the catalyst that spurred hundreds of thousands of people into action across the country in recent weeks, observed Stacy Ludy of the King of Prussia-based Ally & Ana Foundation. It assists women and others vulnerable or in crisis.
“I am proud of George Floyd,” Ludy said. “He didn’t choose death. In fact, he begged for his life. But when his death came, it was the last straw. His death opened the eyes of all people, regardless of color, or religion, or gender. Because he was murdered on the street in front of witnesses, for no reason, finally people have said ‘Enough is enough’.”
“I don’t care what George Floyd did to get him in handcuffs,” Ludy continued. “I know this: it was minor, and certainly not deserving of the death penalty … The reality is that Floyd was killed because he was a black man, and if the world didn’t acknowledge rampant racism before, now all our eyes have been opened.”
Daughters of the Katie Stroman family (above) talked powerfully, many listening at the plaza publicly agreed, about discrimination exhibited toward them as black students in Perkiomen Valley schools.
One cried openly as she described derogatory comments made about her skin color. “I was so confused I started to think I deserved it,” she said. “Forget about them, honey,” an adult female voice came from within the audience. “You’re beautiful!,” she added, and the surrounding crowd began applauding and cheering as the girl regained her composure.
Don’t veer far from home to find racism, Mark Barbee (above), the mayor of Bridgeport PA, warned the audience. Protesters need only look locally at well-publicized inequalities, he said, citing recent examples. “It’s not enough to talk about the racism in Minneapolis or in Atlanta, because we’ve got it going on right here in Montgomery County. And we are brave enough to stand to talk about it, to stand against it, and to make it better for the generations going ahead.”
Schwenksville’s own mayor, Joe Giunta, implored the crowd to take an interest not just in national or state politics, but what was happening in their own neighborhoods too.
While issues that confront townships and boroughs may not be as dramatic as the racism with which the nation and world are dealing, “we welcome your participation” in local government, he said. “Come on out. Find out what’s going on in your home towns.” Giunta pointed to the new borough hall and pleaded, “we want to see it filled on nights when we have our borough council meetings.”
Drivers in their vehicles honked horns, and held their hands aloft in peace gestures as they passed the plaza that was filled with men, women, and children carrying mostly hand-lettered signs. “Unity is power,” one read. “Silence is betrayal,” another declared. “I still can’t breathe,” a third lamented.
Staff members from the YWCA Tri-County Area (above) were on hand distributing materials about its campaigns to eliminate racism and empower women and youth. At another table, two masked volunteers provided forms and directions for voter registrations.
Photos by The Post Publications