Dowagiac Black Lives Matter rally planned for Saturday

DOWAGIAC — This weekend, Dowagiac residents will stand with protestors across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Saturday, Dowagiac will host a Black Lives Matter rally and march. The march will begin at 11 a.m. at Walter Ward Park and march to the James E. Snow building across from city hall. At noon, a rally will take place featuring speakers including Catrinka Johnson, pastor of Connor-Mayo AME church; Tracy Hatcher, pastor of Peace Temple Church of God; Mayor Don Lyons; Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald; and former Cass County Commissioner Minnie Warren. All participants are asked to wear facial coverings if able.

The protest will join the thousands of demonstrations worldwide that have been hosted the last several weeks following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who was killed in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes.

According to organizer Tyree Blackamore, 42, the event will be a peaceful protest that will be open to all, including children.

“The Black Lives Matter Protest and march was an idea we came up with because I myself have two minority children, and there are things I have to teach them to keep them alive and on this earth,” he said. “This march is giving us an opportunity to be heard, for our children to be heard and to show them that not everything needs to result in violence. We want to show our kids that we are fighting for them.”

Blackamore was born in raised in Dowagiac, which, according to the most recently available census data, reports a majority white population at 66.4 percent. African Americans make up roughly 14 percent of Dowagiac’s population, according to census data.

Growing up, Blackamore said he experienced racism in his hometown, which in part inspired him to move to Atlanta, Georgia and later Chicago. After spending nearly a decade away, he moved back to Dowagiac. Now, he is hoping the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement and Saturday’s rally can help foster a new reality where his sons will not need to experience the same discrimination that he faced.

“What we are trying to do is knock down systems of racism in our own community,” Blackamore said of Saturday’s event. “[African Americans] have to teach our kids things most people don’t think about. We have to teach our children how to act during a police stop and how to act in public. … I want my son to do as much as he wants to in this world without having to feel a divide based on the color of his skin. I want him to have all the opportunities that are allotted to him as an American male.”

Already, Blackamore said he is expecting at least 200 people to attend Saturday’s rally and march. He said he would encourage anyone in the greater Dowagiac community to attend, believing it will bring the community together and spark meaningful conversations.

“I hope the speakers will empower the community or compel the community to realize that we are all people, and there should be a universal set of rules for everyone,” he said. “I really believe it will be a learning experience for all. No matter the color of your skin or denomination, everyone can learn something from this rally.”

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