Rising MHS sophomore organizes June 7 protest for Black Lives Matter

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The photo above shows a portion of the group of 600 people who arrived at Drake Field in Peachtree City on June 7 to attend a protest initiated by McIntosh High School rising sophomore Kaitlyn Hood. The aim of the protest was to bring awareness to the black lives lost in encounters with law enforcement. Photo/Ben Nelms.
The photo above shows a portion of the group of 600 people who arrived at Drake Field in Peachtree City on June 7 to attend a protest initiated by McIntosh High School rising sophomore Kaitlyn Hood. The aim of the protest was to bring awareness to the black lives lost in encounters with law enforcement. Photo/Ben Nelms. 
A rising sophomore at McIntosh High School, Kaitlyn Hood speaks to the assembled protesters at Drake Field next to City Hall in Peachtree City on Sunday. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Peachtree City on June 7 had its second protest in the past week to bring awareness to the black lives lost in America at the hands of some in law enforcement. The rally, attended by a continuously swelling crowd estimated at 600, was held around the gazebo at Drake Field.

A rising sophomore at McIntosh High School, Kaitlyn Hood said she organized what her flyer described as a peaceful protest to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

As noted on her social media posting, Hood said the protest was for justice and change.

Hood did not know how many people would show up for the protest. Yet the answer to that question became clear as the hands of the clock moved closer to 5 p.m. The people came, then more and more, until Drake Field was populated with a large crowd estimated at 600 people.

Saying that 2020 is the time to end racial targeting, Hood at the outset of the protest rally said, “We need change now, for the future. Let’s not make the same mistakes past generations made. Change now, not in 60 years.”

Among the speakers were state Rep. Derrick Jackson (District 64), Peachtree City resident and volunteer Alice Cook, local pastor Kenny Ocasio, state Rep. Josh Bonner (District 72) and Peachtree City resident and youth coach Shawn Braxton. Those leading singing at the protest included Mary Spearman and Dee Wyatt.

Up first, Jackson began his comments with “8 minutes, 46 seconds.” His reference was to the amount of time George Floyd laid on the street on May 25, with Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed on Floyd’s neck before he died.

Challenging the audience to contemplate something often not consciously considered, Jackson spoke about how we all take the time to breathe for granted. Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds can also create a moment of inspiration in people’s minds, he continued.

“We can take that and turn it into a movement,” Jackson said.

Jackson noted that, while serving in the Navy, he served for all Americans, challenging the audience to Lead, Love and Listen.

“I travelled the world, and there is no better place than America,” Jackson said, ending his comments and urging people to vote.

Cook in her comments told the crowd it will take everyone being on board to achieve justice, to take a stand for justice.

“We have to stand together to bring about change,” Cook said, with the emotion in her voice evident.

The large crowd between speakers took a knee after Hood took the microphone and asked for a moment of silence. It was a long “moment.” Her intention for the request, and for the extended moment, became clear when Hood returned to the microphone saying that time of silence was “half the time the officer’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck.”

Speaking next, Ocasio began his comments saying, “Change isn’t always pretty, sometimes change hurts. It’s not just a black, white or Hispanic matter. It’s a human matter. White, black, Hispanic, we all matter. We are children of God. Every human has value in the eyes of our Creator.”

Running contrary to what many people rely on to learn about what is going on in America, Ocasio admonished the group to turn off Fox and CNN and go talk to their neighbor or to a stranger.

Ocasio recalled the story of the Good Samaritan, posing the question, “Who are you?”

Bonner followed, speaking of his gratitude for people coming together for a common purpose.

“No one in our county or our state or our country should live in fear because of the color of their skin,” he said, adding that the light of freedom must be kept burning so there is justice for all.

Cautioning people to be aware of the political voices on both sides that benefit from having people divided, Bonner said the idea is to engage, and to do so at the ballot box, in the community and at home.

“Let’s be an example for the state and the nation,” he said.

Braxton was the day’s final speaker, stating that “Nobody is less brave and less free than black men and black women. This nation will not be great until everyone is treated fairly. Everyone. We don’t have to like each other to stand for what’s right.”

Questioning the slogan “Make America Great Again,” Braxton referenced numerous events and times in American history where, for blacks, the term “freedom” either did not apply or was diminished in its implementation in daily life.

“Don’t tell me to pull myself up by the boots when I don’t have any boots,” he said.

Turning his comments to what is happening in the U.S. and around the world, Braxton said, “Today, 18 countries are protesting. We need to go from a moment to a movement. And it starts with you.”

Many of those speaking Sunday afternoon understandably acknowledged Kaitlyn Hood’s efforts and intent to put the protest rally together.

In all, there have been four protests in Fayetteville and Peachtree City in less than a week, all organized by Fayette residents. All were conducted with a call for awareness, unity and solidarity to protest the loss of black lives to law enforcement, and all were conducted peacefully at the request of organizers.