“I was devastated by George Floyd,” said Karla DeJesus.
Through her livestream radio station BWM (Because We Matter) Radio, she described why she’s hosting an event that will take two buses down to the March on Washington on Aug. 28.
“That was a real impetus,” she said. “When Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King Jr. III, made the call, at that funeral, to commemorate the 1963 march… I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to be there.”
Gathered in the DeJesus home in Susquehanna Township, surrounded by books, art pieces and ornately decorated furniture, five people talked about the march, why they are going, and what they would like to accomplish.
“It was a no brainer to get on the bus to stand up for our lives,” said Nina Butler.
For her, two incidents within a week—the New York woman who called the police on a Black man insisting that he was threatening her life when he asked her to leash her dog and the death of George Floyd—were examples of how different Black lives and white lives are in America.
The group recalled incidents of Black people being harassed by white citizens, dying in police custody, assaults by police. Because of the number, they had trouble remembering the order of incidents as they talked.
“I’m young and I’m Black, and my friends are young and Black, too,” said Dorrell Butler, Nina’s husband, as he shared his thoughts, slightly muffled through his mask, on why it’s an easy choice for him to march. “It’s not just a fear for my life, but also a fear for their lives, too.”
The room was heavy with the collective weight of their realities and the discussion of them. For Doreen Sawyers, the march is about connection. Tissues were passed as Sawyers talked about how George Floyd was a crystalizing moment, when all of her 22 years as a corrections officer, experiences of racism and family history came together, and she saw the reality clearly.
“I wanted to be with my people,” she said. “I wanted to do something, to say something.”
The group concurs that bringing a voice to the problem serves as reason to march—that simply their presence is important.
“I would like to be a representative of the support of this movement,” said José DeJesus.
But talking about the reality has not always been a part of their history. Karla DeJesus and Sawyers said that their ancestors did not share with family members the atrocities that they experienced—as slaves, during Jim Crow and beyond—as a way to protect their children from the pain and sorrow. They knew that their descendants would have plenty of sorrows themselves.
“Our ancestors’ way of protecting us was to keep quiet,” said Nina Butler. “My mother, my aunt, their way of protecting us was to learn to speak up. So, it’s that transference of energy. This march is our way of giving protection to all of our people.”
This march and this time in history exemplify a sea change for white America, an occurrence from which everything will transform, according to DeJesus.
Part of this transformation will be created by what those who participate in the march bring home with them.
“I want to bring back the energy of my people being in one collective space,” said Sawyers.
The energy in the room shifted and lifted. It’s evident what Sawyers wants to get from the march. It’s part of her journey to find out more about America’s history beyond the history books, in a more factual way.
“Change, not just change in the world but inner change,” said Nina Butler of what she wants to see accomplished from the march.
DeJesus is resolute in her desire to make this world a better place for her children and grandchildren—to leave a legacy.
Through BWM Radio, DeJesus “talks to, with, about and for the voiceless,” as well as plays music, and informs Harrisburg about issues and happenings. Leading this trip is also part of this legacy.
“America is not going to understand the depth of what Black America is going through until they see the numbers,” she said.
On Aug. 28, they will board a bus and head to a march where, 57 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his emblematic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Less remembered from that day was Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who said, “When I was rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned in my life and under those tragic circumstances is that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is—silence.”
Karla DeJesus, José DeJesus, Nina Butler, Dorrell Butler and Doreen Sawyers have chosen not be part of that silence.
To participate in the March on Washington with BWM Radio, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bwm-radio-charter-2020-march-on-washington-tickets-109271839012?fbclid=IwAR2x8ID4B_Y2nBbhMwLakNaFnOCdgb_7rO5p2R_e65M_2MrzPkA1smHebgk.
Sponsored, free seats are available. Call 717-580-5499.
COVID-19 Kits Provided.
Masks required on the bus and in Washington, D.C.
Learn more about BWM Radio at bwmradio.com.