Two Lawrence High School graduates honored for peaceful protests in support of equality

Kyla Allen, left, and Jayda Parker, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2015, were honored as "Rising Stars" at the high school's annual Black History Celebration Feb. 28.
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Kyla Allen, left, and Jayda Parker, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2015, were honored as "Rising Stars" at the high school's annual Black History Celebration Feb. 28.

When Kyla Allen and Jayda Parker set out to organize solidarity marches in Trenton and Lawrence Township last summer following the death of George Floyd, they never expected to be acclaimed for their efforts.

But the two women, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2015, were honored as “Rising Stars” at the high school’s annual Black History Celebration Feb. 28. The event was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since graduating from high school and college, Allen and Parker have learned to stand up for their beliefs. Their outrage over Floyd’s death compelled them to do something to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, they said.

Parker, who is comfortable with social media, organized a protest in Trenton. Fresh from the success of the Trenton protest, they were inspired to hold one in Lawrence Township. Together with Lawrence High School alumni, they formed the Black Solidarity Group and held a peaceful protest that made its way through the township in June.

Accepting the Rising Star award, Allen and Parker thanked their families and friends for their support. They also thanked the Black History Celebration Committee for honoring them with the award.

Allen thanked her family “for raising me up to the woman that I am, for always showing me how important it is to be involved in the community.”

Turning to Parker, Allen called her “my spark and my right hand through all of this. When we did the protest in Trenton, we didn’t think we could do it alone, but we did it together.”

Parker thanked Allen, who she said “lit a fire under me. I didn’t know which way to go and she led me in that direction.” She also paid tribute to her mother, who she referred to as her “rock.”

Two Trenton natives, Trenton Municipal Court Judge Geraldine Eure and Bruce Boyd, were honored with the Trailblazer Award for their accomplishments and for blazing a path for younger generations.

Eure graduated from Trenton High School, attended college and graduated from Columbia Law School. Eure worked in several law firms and became the assistant counsel (in-house attorney) for Consolidated Edison Inc. in New York City.

“The world has changed a lot since I was a little Black girl growing up in Trenton (during the Civil Rights era). There were few Blacks in the legal profession, and fewer Black women. The only lawyers I knew were the ones on TV,” she said.

Eure said she can still hear her parents instilling the message that “no matter what we achieve, it was based not only on our own skills and abilities, but based in large part on the sacrifices of others who paved the way for us.”

“(My parents said) we had a duty and a responsibility to leave the door open even wider than it was when we found it for opportunities for others,” Eure said.

While she never set out to be a trailblazer, Eure said, she knew she was entering a field that was unique for Blacks and for women. She said she was one of 19 Blacks in a class of more than 300 law students at Columbia Law School.

She recalled that many times, she was the only Black in the room. In many corridors of the legal profession, the absence of “people of color” is still the norm, she said, and while there has been progress, “it is not as secure as we thought it would be.”

“If I can be a trailblazer for young Black boys and girls, the goal is to leave that trail wider and make the journey easier for others. Don’t be deterred. Each of you can and will be a trailblazer,” she said.

Boyd, who also received the Trailblazer Award, grew up in Trenton and is the force behind B.O.Y.D. – Building Our Youth Development.

B.O.Y.D. develops programs to enrich students and to engage them and their parents. Boyd himself is venturing into motivational speaking.

Boyd, who founded the youth group in Trenton in 2003, thanked the event organizers for giving him the award.

B.O.Y.D.’s emphasis is on education, empowerment, enrichment and exposure to the world outside of their immediate environment, he said.

Boyd has taken groups to historic sites such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, which was the site of the first march for civil rights in 1965, and to the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri, where slave Dred Scott sued for his freedom in the 1850s.

Boyd has also taken groups to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is the site of the Black equivalent to Wall Street and was also the site of a racially-motivated riot in 1921. It destroyed the city’s Greenwood neighborhood, which was predominantly Black.

“The things that I like to leave with the children is to study like you are going to live forever, and to live like you are going to die tomorrow,” Boyd said.