KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Sunday afternoon, Jacob Blake, a Black father, was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisc., as he walked to his car. The shooting was caught on video, which immediately went viral on social media. By the end of the night, protests broke out in Kenosha, and the following day additional demonstrations were held throughout the country, including one in Kalamazoo.
“Today was another one of them days right. We woke up, we got on social media, we got online, we turned on our TV, and we see our trauma splashed everywhere,” King Ryan said to the crowd at Bronson Park. “I can’t watch them videos no more. I don’t want to, and I shouldn’t have to.”
Monday night, dozens of activists and residents gathered at Bronson in a rally that honored Blake, who remains hospitalized.
The rally, put together by Uplift Kalamazoo, a community organization working to end systemic racism, also called for an end to police brutality. They support defunding the police and putting that money towards providing mental health services for the Black community and to traumatized kids and individuals.
“Police keep their foot on our neck. We been screaming, 'We can’t breathe.' And we’re tired y’all. We’re tired,” said Ryan, the executive director of Uplift Kalamazoo. “I don’t want to see people sharing somebody’s trauma. I don’t want to have to think, ‘Man, that could be me.’ Every time, we think that could easily be me. And then we’re expected to walk out of our houses and feel safe and feel protected. We are not protected as Black people.”
Several other speakers took the stage at the rally, advocating for Black history education to be taught in schools and calling on local leaders and politicians to do more than just talk and hold "fruitless" meetings.
Ryan also encouraged residents to get involved and "get territorial."
“We are working to make Kalamazoo an anti-racist society, an anti-racist city, where we lead with it,” Ryan said, “where we can really go around the world and brag about where we are at, and brag about how much better our police have come because they are being held accountable, and taking responsibility for their wrongs.”