Three staff members from the Vancouver region attended multiple Black Lives Matter protests. Many of you have probably heard about the event of one George Floyd having a knee on the back of his neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds causing him to suffocate and die. This caused a wave of realization to many Americans. For many, this was an awakening to the underlying systemic racism and police brutality in our country. Far too often, policemen get away with abusing their power. This leads to a gap in our country where the Black community is at an unfair advantage and find themselves still fighting for equality. We as Washington Advocates of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff want to show we address this issue and we are humbly open to improvement and critique from our community and our goal is to prove we are allies to all oppressed cultures. WADHH held long conversations amongst our staff about our thoughts and feelings to this topic of systemic racism and inequality of Black Americans. Ultimately, we agreed it is best to be open to the oppressed groups in these kinds of situations and aid in amplifying their wounded voices. The first opportunity we found to peacefully protest and show our support was from a Facebook group. The post was advertising a protest being held at Burnt Bridge Creek. When we arrived, there were approximately 30 people and a tent was set up with refreshments and shirts and other things for sale. An interpreter was already there ready to go. The crowd was chanting various phrases like, “Black Lives Matter”, “No Justice. No Peace.”, and “Say his name, George Floyd” are just some examples. There was high energy and cars would honk loudly in support as they passed by. There was a brief break when some members of the Black community stood to share their stories of how inequality and police brutality affected their lives. Everything on this first day was very impactful. On the second day, one staff went to the Clark County Correction, and joined the same group. One deaf person tagged along to join the protest. An interpreter was also there presently. The crowd was chanting several phrases such as “Black Lives Matter”, “No Justice. No Peace” and “Say (his or her) name, George Floyd/Sandra Bland/Breonne Taylor/Eric Garner…” while walking around the building. The noises from the prisoners inside the cell rooms were heard – it was clear that they were inspired by the crowd’s chanting. A young white girl with blonde hair, perhaps age 8 or 9, led the crowd to chant viciously. What an inspiring sight!
Terese had an opportunity to chat with Lexie, who is the leader of the BLM protest, to share her experiences of racism, and her main reason for selecting the location was because some of her family members are in the jail and their basic needs were not met adequate. The week before the BLM protest, the Clark County Correction encountered some fire, yet the prisoners were left in their cell rooms intentionally where they had to swallow the smoke and did not even get any immediate medical attention after the fire was extinguished. The BLM protest really inspired many protesters and the prisoners greatly. Terese shared with the WADHH staff that the protest will happen again at the same place on the very next day. On the third day, two staff members were headed for the jail again to protest but after working later than anticipated they were worried they would not make it on time. On the way they spotted another protest, so they pulled over and joined them instead. After talking with some of the people there, we learned it was being hosted by the local school district. Only 3 blocks from the Deaf Center, this protest had over 100 people protesting at a large intersection holding up signs and yelling “Black Lives Matter”. After a couple minutes, a white man drove very slowly past the protesters holding an “All Lives Matter” sign and attempting to engage in a debate with people. Most ignored him and only responded that if he had better educators growing up maybe he would have a more educated opinion and spelling because on his sign he misspelled the word, ‘support’ as ‘suport’. Afterward, our two staff members had another conversation about the impact this movement has had and how important it is to stand behind our communities. WADHH does not intend for this to be our only moment to show support and allyship. This is just the beginning of our mission to support all communities of oppression. These protests teach us a lot about the dilemma of police brutality, inequality, and the systemic racism our country is built on and how it is all our responsibilities to dismantle it. We stand with the Black community and support Black Lives Matter.