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Protest aims to keep momentum

Rising King’s Fork High School senior Cheyene Henry, age 17, led a demonstration in downtown Suffolk on Wednesday to keep the Black Lives Matter movement alive.

The march started by the Courthouse Fountain Park by the Godwin Courthouse on Main Street. More than 20 protesters lined the street with signs that read “say their names,” “we are the blueprint,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“We are here to bring back the movement,” said Henry. “People treat Black Lives Matter as a trend and hashtag. It’s more than a trend. For the minority to influence the majority, you have to be consistent.”

Henry said the march was not against anyone, and “Black Power” does not take power from any other group.

The group started by crossing North Main Street and walking down the sidewalk of West Washington Street to Suffolk City Hall. Henry’s brother, Andrew Henry, took the microphone and speaker to lead the chants.

“Black lives,” he yelled.

“Matter,” the crowd yelled back.

“No justice.”

“No peace.”

“All lives can’t matter until.”

“Black lives matter.”

“Protests are to make people uncomfortable,” Andrew Henry reminded the crowd and encouraged them to yell louder and hold their signs higher.

Once at the courthouse, Cheyene Henry named names of African Americans who have broken barriers and led the way in American innovation and culture, reinstating the theme of the march “Black is the Blueprint.”

“The purpose of this protest is to bring light to the Black community,” said Henry. “Our voices need to be heard. To anyone who knows a Black child, niece, nephew, daughter, son, they can be whatever they want to be. They don’t need to be anyone else to be anything.”

Her list included, among others, Sarah Boone, the inventor of the ironing board; Marie Van Brittan Brown, the inventor of the home security system; and Garrett Augustus Morgan, who has the patent of the three-way traffic light.

“I am really proud of her,” said Elicia Henry, Cheyene’s mother. “She talks about the movement all the time. Every night she is on Instagram live talking about Black Lives Matter and educating her peers. She came to me wanting to do this protest, and I told her to go for it. She contacted the city and police all by herself.”

In front of City Hall, the microphone was opened to anyone who wanted to talk. This included Teress Dobie, 17, a classmate and friend of Cheyene Henry.

“Cheyene, I am very proud of you,” said Dobie. “Not only to do you talk about the issue, but you’re doing something about it.”

Dobie continued with an observation from actor and musician Will Smith that racism hasn’t increased, it was always here, but now it is being recorded.

“My blackness is who I am, and our blackness is who we are, but we should not let it offend you or bring fear to your heart,” said Dobie. “We are all God’s children, and we are all created the same. The only difference is our personalities. We are the same and should be treated the same.”

Brenda Johnson-Kindred, an aunt to one of the protesters, stepped up at the end to encourage the youth gathered.

“I believe there is a God, and because He put this together, great things will come from your gathering,” said Johnson-Kindred before leading a prayer. “This is the first step, and it is not in vain.”

Other adults in the crowd shared similar thoughts.

“Seeing this gives me hope,” said Donna Richardson. “They are seeing what’s going on and stepping up to the plate and coming up with strategies and solutions.”

“It’s a different generation not allowing stuff to continually happen,” added Christina Wiggins.

On the march back to Godwin Courthouse, Tamesha Banks lead the chant on the microphone.

“Hands up,” she shouted.

“Don’t shoot,” the crowd answered.

While marching back, Dianna Denney brought the protesters bottles of water.

“I am just really proud of these young people peacefully protesting,” said Denney. “I have goosebumps. I was watching on Facebook Live and wanted to help. They make me proud to be from Suffolk.”

To end the march, Henry encouraged the crowd to keep the momentum and not live in ignorance.

“This was my first step,” said Henry. “Maybe this is yours too.”