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From Staff Reports
A group of roughly 30 local residents and a few visitors gathered in Leakesville Saturday afternoon for a Unity March in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to draw attention to racial injustice they believe continues to be prevalent throughout the country.
The ‘Unity In Our Community’ march was organized by Greene County High School graduates Dariyel Johnson and Mia Parker. Marchers gathered at Leakesville Town Hall and marched to the pavilion in Green Park, chanting ‘racism has got to go’ along the way.
Town and county police officers blocked traffic on Main Street briefly to accommodate the march. A group of roughly the same number of people parked and stood around the front of the Greene County Courthouse, some displaying the Mississippi flag or the Confederate (Beauregard) Battle Flag. However, there was no confrontation between the groups and the event remained peaceful throughout.
Once at the park, Parker and Johnson addressed the crowd and then allowed others to share what was on their hearts. Cheryl Johnson spoke about her father, the Rev. T.T. Johnson, and his efforts as a civil rights organizer in the county in the 1960s and early 1970s. Other speakers addressed the need for prison reform and conditions at South Mississippi Correctional Institution and other state prisons.
Dariyel Johson spoke about her dad’s struggles as one of the first African-American students to integrate public schools in Greene County, but then relayed some of her own experiences.
“It was here in 2008 when that boy in class said he wanted Barack Obama assassinated on his Inauguration Day, before we even knew how he’d be as a president,” Johnson said. “It was here in 2016 when another person said that they wanted Colin Kaepernick to be shot in the head for simply exercising his rights.”
“Fathers still make it very clear that they don’t want individuals with their sons, or daughters, because of the color of their skin as of 2020. Honestly, the racial tension is even here every time someone tells me that I’m pretty, but ‘for a black girl’. These are people that I think I know and care about. I’m sure most of them mean well. They don’t see that it’s wrong.”
Parker and Johnson also had a voter registration table set up in the park and a few of the attendees took advantage of the opportunity to register to vote for the first time.