Rather than swimming or playing basketball at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, 10 cherubs attended a Black Lives Matter protest July 9, waving handmade protest signs and demanding change alongside Evanston residents.
After white police officers killed Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, 32, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, two former Evanston Township High School students created a Facebook event called Evanston Against Police Brutality. The cherubs crowded into downtown Evanston’s Fountain Square with a few hundred protesters, opting to attend the rally over a night at SPAC with friends.
“A lot of cherubs were upset about (the shootings) and wanted to take action,” Andrew Golden said. “That’s why there were a good amount of them at the Black Lives Matter protest, and that was really great that they were there to be supportive.”
When the cherubs told their friends and family they were attending the protest, they were met with concern and disapproval. Golden said his parents forbade him from attending because of the shootings that took place at the Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas on July 7, but he still went. Another cherub, Avni Prasad, was advised against going by her roommate because of the anticipated danger, but Prasad said that was selfish.
“There are people who constantly live in danger, and even if there was a small risk, we should be able to take that chance in order to reduce the risk for millions across the world,” Prasad said.
At the protest, following a chorus of the black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” 18-year-old organizer Camille Allen spoke about how she reached out to a friend after watching videos of the shootings and debated holding a vigil or protest.
“We decided ultimately that while there was a time to mourn their deaths, there could also be a time to call for action and call for change,” Allen said. “I don’t think activism is one set solution or one set plan. We have to be active, whatever that means to us.”
The rally’s demographic varied, from young children to the elderly, and included people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds, Golden said. He said it seemed as if everyone there was comfortable talking about the issues and advocating their stances.
Prasad said her favorite speakers were the spoken word poets who performed at the rally, including 15-year-old ETHS sophomore Liana Wallace. Wallace called on legislators to combat institutionalized racism.
“I demand a tomorrow where a white police officer cannot feel so threatened by my skin as to shoot at the very sight at me,” Wallace said. “I demand that we start working on this tomorrow today. I don’t want to protest for the rest of my life. I want something to change.”
With one final chant of “Black Lives Matter” resounding through the square, the rally concluded. After the demonstration, rally leaders moved into the crowd and spoke with attendees, many of whom were crying and hugging each other. Rev. Michael Nabors of Evanston’s Second Baptist Church said he hoped the community would continue to fight institutionalized racism even after the rally.
“How do you move from an emotional moment like a rally into something that’s substantive?” Nabors said. “We may not be able to change the world, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we will change Evanston.”
Prasad said the lack of conversation about the shootings within the cherub community was “a fault.” She said although it is easy for most to block out the reality of police violence, black people cannot ignore the risk.
Golden agreed that the best way to move forward is to continue the conversation about police brutality among all cherubs.
“It’ll help make a difference in terms of what happens and people’s stereotypes and how they judge people,” Golden said. “I feel like if you talk about it, maybe people won’t be as judgmental as they once were.”
Cherubs discuss the Black Lives Matter rally in the podcast by Erin Edwards below.