Eddu Oparie-Addoh is a black father who lives in Oregon with two children who are just beginning their adolescence.
With his voice breaking and tears streaming down his face he told a crowd of hundreds at the “Stand-Up and Lean-In” protest Saturday, June 6, that that unlike his white counterparts, he fears one day his children might not return home after running a simple errand.
His daughter, Jada, who is going into her freshman year at Oregon High School, this fall told the same group she has had the “N-word thrown in my face almost daily” while walking down the halls in school.
“I walk around school feeling ashamed, embarrassed and unwelcome because of the way I look,” Jada said at the protest hosted by social justice Facebook group the Oregon Allies.
“Stand-Up and Lean-In” is among many protests that have erupted across the nation. Most, including a march in Madison, were organized to draw attention to the death of George Floyd and other black people at the hands of police, including more than a week’s worth of protests on State Street in Madison.
Some of the gatherings across the country followed with violent and destructive behavior in the beginning.
But “Stand-Up and Lean-In” remained peaceful.
The crowd cheered after hearing every story and held up signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “We stand with you” and “Silence does not change the world.” At one point, Village Board trustee Amanda Peterson led a “Black Lives Matter” chant with a megaphone.
The event raised around $2,000 from various businesses and individuals who wanted to support the cause, Allies administrator Dana Kobernusz told the Observer June 6.
Eddu and Jada’s voices were among many – students and residents alike – heard at the event, held at Triangle Park in Oregon’s downtown.
Oregon resident Tracye Campbell said she is tired of fighting for her life, while her white counterparts don’t have to experience that same fear.
“This is not about color,” she said to the crowd. “This is about basic human rights we should not be fighting for 400 years later.”
Antonye Marsh said she has children in the school district who have faced experience similar to Jada’s.
“Today, I want you guys to go home and ask yourselves what you will do to change,” Marsh said. “I’m not different than you.
“Love people for who they are, period,” she added.
Jada said she is mentally exhausted after educating so many of her peers about the meaning of the racial slurs they use on her. She said she’s tired of worrying about her father, who might not one day make it back home from work, echoing his same worries about his children.
“As a 14 year old, I should never have to fear for my family’s life because of the color of their skin,” she said. “I am disgusted with today’s society, and my opinion will not change until the rest of the black community and I can live without the fear of being murdered for nothing, wrongfully accused and being treated as animals”
Offering words of solidarity in response to the above stories were the future Oregon School District superintendent Leslie Bergstrom, Peterson and event organizers. Also present to show support were village president Jeanne Carpenter, Oregon police chief Jennifer Pagenkopf and staff from the Oregon Area/Fire EMS District and Oregon Public Library.
“They fear us,” Pageknopf told the Observer with tears in her eyes at the event. “The way this event was designed speaks to the heart of the community. We can be part of the solution.”