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Lawrence High School students organize solidarity march; many young speakers call for change

Lawrence residents marched through the neighborhood around Lawrence High School in a Black Solidarity protest march and rally.
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Lawrence residents marched through the neighborhood around Lawrence High School in a Black Solidarity protest march and rally.

Chanting “Enough’s enough,” “Whose town, our town,” and “No justice, no peace,” several hundred people turned out for a black solidarity peaceful protest rally at Lawrence High School on June 7.

Carrying signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Latinos 4 Black Lives Matter” and “I matter,  we matter,” protestors gathered in the school’s parking lot before embarking on a march that winded its way onto Princeton Pike, Darrah Lane, Route 206 and Gainsboro Road and back to Lawrence High School.

The rally was one of many that grew out of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last month, including similar protest rallies in Princeton and Trenton in the past couple of weeks.

Jayda Parker, who organized the June 7 rally with Kyla Allen, said she “was up all night” after learning of Floyd’s death. “I could not sit still. I felt like I had to stand up,” said Parker, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2015 with Allen.

Before turning the program over to the mostly young speakers at the rally, Parker called for a moment of silence for Breonna Taylor. She was killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police who were serving a search warrant at her home in March. She would have been 27 years old on June 5.

The theme that ran through many of the young speakers’ remarks is that this is the time to make change and it is up to young people to do it.

“We have seen George Floyd pinned down for eight minutes longer than he should have been. It has to change,” said Saylah Parrish, who is a sophomore at The Hun School in Princeton.

“If not now, when (will it change)? If not us, who? This is our lives. We have the power to take it back,” Saylah said.

Lawrence High School senior Ariel Coleman told the attendees that “we need people to talk to the youth. Change comes from inside out,” she said, urging parents, students, police and others to talk to one another.

Pauline Lloyd, who is a former public school and charter school administrator, praised the event organizers and focused on the role of education in her remarks.

“If you want to have an impact, you have to galvanize young people. You have done that today,” Lloyd said. She said she was standing before them as a mother, a mentor, an educator and advocate for social justice.

“America is at a precipice, and it will take young leaders like you to turn this country around. I stand before you to say to students, parents, teachers, administrators and community partners that suffering has become insufferable,” she said.

Lloyd told the students that education makes a difference in their lives and that “it is OK to be smart. Do your best on each assignment and assessment.”

A missed assignment or meeting may not mean an unconcerned parent, she told the group. Scheduling parent-teacher conferences at noon forces some parents “to choose between income and involvement” because they must work, she said.

Lloyd said the schools need to provide students with computers and Internet connectivity. Access to curriculum that prepares students for college is needed, as is early childhood education programs that ensure literacy for all children.

“We want administrators who look like us, whether we live in 08611 (Trenton) or 08648 (Lawrence Township),” she said. She said there is one African American administrator in the Lawrence Township Public Schools, whose enrollment is about 12% African-American.

Wrapping up the rally, Parker urged attendees to take a potted geranium from the tables in front of the speakers’ area. The geraniums are a symbol of growth and a way to heal, she said.

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