A predominantly white crowd of about 300 people rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in downtown Moulton on Saturday afternoon in an event hosted by the Lawrence County Chapter of the NAACP.
With a heavy presence of officers from the Moulton Police Department and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the rally remained peaceful on a hot, sunny day.
“It seems that the black voice doesn’t matter,” said Latasha Parker, of Moulton, after the rally. “As a white woman, those things are not OK with me. I will do my best to use my voice to help bring peace. We’ll achieve that through equality.”
Her friend Lashundra Craig, a black woman, said she is tired of the “same mess” involving inequality shown toward minorities.
“Racism is taught at home,” she said. “We need to educate people to treat others with respect.”
About a dozen speakers sent the same message during the two-hour rally at the old courthouse square.
“The laws should govern everybody in the same way, so we are here today to speak out,” Lawrence County NAACP President the Rev. J.T. Turnbore said. “We are joining in with all the other protests in the world and all over the country, that enough is enough.”
The death of George Floyd, 46, while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers on May 25 was mentioned by most speakers. Floyd’s death spurred global protests, and some of them turned violent.
The atmosphere at the Moulton rally was one of unity. Benard Simelton of Harvest, president of the Alabama Conference of NAACP, said the speakers were on target with their message of unity and respect.
“But the real action begins when these people go back home and how they treat others,” Simelton told the audience. “It’s about how we treat our neighbors. We need to treat our fellow man with dignity. America has a long way to go. Enough is enough.”
Turnbore told the crowd prayer will help ease racism. “Jesus Christ didn’t die for a color. He died for all of us,” he said. “We need to stop racial separation. There’s not a black section in heaven. There is not a white section in heaven. I’m tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.”
Another speaker, Jack Steele described how it feels to be judged at first sight by the color of his skin.
“If you want to know something about me, come and talk to me. You will come to find out that I’m a grandfather; that I’m a father,” he told Saturday attendees. “I love my children just like you love yours. When the police get behind me and I see the blue lights, I get scared too, but I also know that you’ve got to carry yourself in a certain way. You’ve got to be civil at all times.”
Hatton teacher Monja Parker also spoke on behalf of the Lawrence County Democratic Party, telling the crowd that although she knew how it felt as a mother to worry about her children and grandchildren, she has never known the fear of “so many African American mothers.”
“I’ve never had to have that talk with (my sons) about how they should behave if they are ever pulled over. How they should keep their hands visible. How they should always be compliant,” she said. “I will never understand the struggle of being a black person in America. I will never understand that, but I can remain teachable, and I can see you, and I can hear you, and I can stand with you.”
Bobby Diggs, vice president of the county NAACP, said being black scares him. “What happened to George Floyd needs to be a wake-up call for Lawrence County, for Alabama, for the country,” he said. “I was born black. I am black and I’ll die black, but I don’t want to die because I am black.”
Moulton City Councilwoman Cassandra Lee called for the five mayors of Lawrence County municipalities to be visible in the black community “not just at election time.”
She said racism is alive in Lawrence County and urged the crowd, “Black votes matter. Use your vote. Hold (elected officials) accountable.”
Moulton attorney Jerome Thompson called for the residents to participate in a unity day on June 27 and show their support with a #42unity on social media.
“Just think of the example we could be to the world if we all came together to repair, rather than destroy; talk, rather than shout; to unite rather than divide,” he said in a Facebook post on June, 2. “Choose a project, make a positive impact in our community…the Jackson House Foundation needs volunteers, Good Samaritan needs donations for food, the Moulton Lions Club needs local artists to finish the downtown mural, and the list goes on.”
Thompson urged residents countywide to declare June 27, “Lawrence County Day of Unity.”
Calling Floyd’s death “a senseless murder,” Thompson lauded Lawrence County Sheriff Max Sanders on Saturday for having a diverse staff of deputies and jailers.
“I was encouraged by the diversity of the speakers,” said District 1 County Commissioner Jesse Byrd, who represents the majority black section of the county. “They sent the message to everybody here we want to do the right thing. We want to keep what happened in Minneapolis from happening here. It shouldn’t be the color of my skin vs. the color of someone else’s skin. I want everybody to be treated the same.”
Many of those attending the rally carried signs or wore T-shirts: “I can’t breathe.” “Legalize being black.” “My skin color is not a threat.” “No justice, no peace.”