Featured photo by Carolyn de Berry
Protesters in Greensboro traded marching for driving and chanting for honking on Tuesday evening in a processional for black lives. The event began in the Union Square Campus parking lot at the corner of Gate City Blvd. and Elm St. and made its way through downtown and alongside NC A&T campus all the way to Maplewood Cemetery where four of the five individuals killed during the Greensboro Massacre are buried. Triad City Beat did a livestream of the event on Facebook which can be viewed here.
Organizer of the event and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greensboro April Parker spoke at the beginning of the event, which was titled “Mourning Drive” on Facebook.
“Honk your horns for black lives!” yelled Parker into a microphone in the back of a pickup truck.
After the hundreds of cars honked their horns, causing a cacophony of sound that resonated through the air, Parker asked for a moment of silence for those who had lost their lives to police brutality and to the coronavirus. In the event’s description, Parker explained that the car protest was a way for individuals who didn’t feel comfortable marching to show their support and maintain safe social distancing. She also said in an interview, that it was a way for elders and those who are differently-abled to also participate.
“This isn’t about one person or behaviors,” Parker said. “but institutions and systems we must resist.”
As Parker and others led the processional out of the parking lot and into downtown, others on bikes helped lead the way and stop traffic at intersections to maintain safety. As the line of cars drove down Elm Street, shopkeepers and pedestrians walked to the street and raised their fists in their in support. Other cars joined in along the way, creating an even longer line.
One woman, who did not name herself, spoke to Triad City Beat in the parking lot and said that she decided to attend the processional because she wanted to fight for her children’s futures.
“We’re here because we are people of color, we are black folks, a black family with black children,” she said. “And I don’t want my children to be going through the same mess that we’re going through. We shouldn’t be going through the same mess that our grandparents through. It’s about time that this community come together and get beyond the symbols and the platitudes and actually come together against racism and say ‘Black lives matter.'”
Another woman, who is white and a part of the organization Guilford For All, said that it’s white people’s responsibility to show up for black lives.
“I’m out here because it’s our obligation as white people to dismantle the systemic racism that we all benefit from,” she said. “So many people are just learning now that through all of this awareness that it’s so much worse than they knew and they need to come join us.”
In planning the route, Parker stated that the stops were significant in showing how long individuals in Greensboro have been fighting for justice. As cars entered the Maplewood Cemetery, survivors Rev. Nelson Johnson and Signe Waller spoke about the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and how their friends with the Communist Worker’s Party were killed by klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party.
“This story is so distorted and unknown,” Johnson said at the cemetery. “You know there are moments in history where there is a convergence of energy. You can’t quite explain it. But the police have been killing people for a long time and black people…. But at a certain time, something happens and all of that energy comes together. And for us, who have been relatively isolated, this is a moment of deep meaning to see so many people, and so many young people.
“We’re gonna win,” Johnson continued. “People of this nation are going to bend this nation in a different direction. Part of my smile is in anticipation of what is going to happen. I’m happy about what is happening.
“Every city is like a stream and the water is flowing and after a while streams don’t stay by themselves, they connect with other streams and they form creeks,” Johnson continued. “And the creeks form a river and the river doesn’t have to beg anybody about how to get to the ocean. It has the power to carve through all of the obstacles and land in the ocean of peace and new possibility.”
Parker, who has organized many protests for black lives throughout the years said that ending the processional at the grave site of those killed during the Greensboro Massacre has deep significance during the current protests.
“The route has a lot of significance for us,” Parker said. “It was connecting the legacy of violence…. We’re talking a lot about what’s happening in the current world and Greensboro has done a good job of erasing that history…. We have been building with these folks for a very long time and we want to make sure that our elders get justice in their lifetime as well. I was just trying to make sure that we’re tying those connections to what’s happening now to what happened then. A lot of folks don’t know that they were organizers and protesters just like us which I think is super powerful. These folks lost their lives doing exactly what we’re trying to do right now.”
Parker said she hopes to plan another event like this one in the future and said she’s excited about the newer young black leadership that has been organizing protests throughout the city.
Joining the protest in person was Greensboro city councilwoman Sharon Hightower who stood outside of her car at the cemetery as others laid flowers on top of the tombstones of those killed.
“I think this is a great way to bring awareness to many of the issues in our community” Hightower said. “Obviously this is a result of George Floyd but I really feel like this is a movement and not a moment. So we will keep this up and keep it going and I really appreciate the spirit that this is done in to really bring emphasis to ‘Black lives matter,’ because we do matter and we have so much to give and have given but we shouldn’t give it in death.”