MAHOMET, Ill. (WCIA) — Community members gathered Monday for a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Two groups that were separately planning marches in Mahomet instead merged into one to make sure their message would be heard loud and clear.
The protest began at 5:30. Roughly a dozen people spoke, some sharing the times they’ve been victims of racism, while others talked about ways they’re learning to be better allies. Police Chief Metzler also spoke, calling the protest a gathering of people with a common goal of improving Mahomet.
19-year-old Savannah Matthews, who grew up in Mahomet and is now a Division One athlete at Kent State, was one of the featured speakers. She talked about the ways she’s experienced racism throughout her life, with memories dating back to when she was just 6-years-old.
“I just really want it to be put out there, the effects it [racism] has on everyone,” she said. “Not just the black community, but racism in general, how it’s just tearing our nation apart.”
Her mother says she was proud of Savannah’s leadership in Monday’s event.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of her,” Michelle said. “It is very brave in the world we live in today to speak out but that’s exactly what we need to do.”
Michelle, who is white, said it’s not just a systemic issue that people need to address. She says she grew up in a racist household.
“I myself was victim to implicit bias without even realizing it,” she said. “It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I had to consider what life might be like for someone other than me.”
After the speeches, the group walked from the administrative building to the police station, where they took a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, signifying the amount of time fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons and State Rep. Carol Ammons were both at the rally. He said they’ve been working with the organizers for roughly a year now on ways to confront racism.
“We’ve been watching the work that’s been taking place here in Mahomet for a long time,” he said. “We wanted to come out and be supportive. What we heard today and what we see today, especially in a small town like this, our white brothers and sisters saying ‘listen, racism is something that we have to address, because it did not start with black people,’ that’s something that’s encouraging for me and for my family and it takes a lot of courage for people to do that, so we are extremely happy.”
Organizers ended Monday’s rally with a call to action, including urging people to vote, and calling on the Mahomet school district to make more diverse hires and add more books by black authors to the curriculum.