A Challenge to Our Community

By Kevin Shannahan

In an earlier article on the protest on the riverbank, I started the piece with a quote from the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution guaranteeing “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In an increasingly fractious nation in which we talk, or all too often, yell, past one another rather than to one another, that quote from the Bill of Rights bears repeating.

The Natchitoches Courthouse was the scene of peaceful, dignified and determined protest Monday, June 8 as a racially diverse group of several hundred people from every walk of life gathered to speak out against racism and the unequal treatment afforded minorities in our community and larger society.

The event was sponsored by 100 Black Men of Natchitoches, The Local Pastor’s Association, Natchitoches’ Black Heritage Committee, the Natchitoches Branch of the NAACP, Unheard Voices of Natchitoches, and Rock the Vote. Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey was there as were city council members Don Mims, Dale Neilson,Eddie Harrington and Sylvia Morrow. City Council candidate Betty Sawyer was also in attendance as was Parish President John Richmond. Reverends Steve and Ali Harris were joined by several other preachers, area politicians and representatives from 100 Black Men of Natchitoches in addressing the crowd.

There were common themes to the speeches. Racism isn’t something a child is born with. It is a learned behavior. Our common Christian heritage should leave no room for racial division, nor should our government. One of the first speakers quoted the Declaration of Independence that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….” We have fallen woefully short of that goal in our nation’s history.

I looked around the crowd and saw several men and women I know as fellow Veterans. Several of them have shed their blood on foreign soil in defense of this nation. I saw entire families, small children sitting on their father’s shoulders watching the event. They were all gathered together in peaceful, dignified determination to challenge their community to be the best it can be, to live up to promises of our nation’s founding.

The protest was ordinary people from every walk of life coming together to exercise “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances…” Once again, I saw my city and my nation at its finest. Let’s get to work.

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