TALLADEGA -- Hundreds of Talladega College students, along with faculty and administration members, marched Tuesday morning from the student center to the county courthouse, around The Square and back, calling for an end to injustice and racial profiling.
The marchers all wore masks and most wore matching Black Lives Matter T-shirts. They were orderly, and the entire march went off without incident.
As they proceeded up East Battle Street, the marchers chanted familiar slogans, including “No Justice-No Peace-No Racist Police,” “Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, These Racist (Killer) Cops have got to go,” “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “We’re ready for justice” and “What Do We Want? (Justice!), When Do We Want It (Now!),” among others.
Many of the protesters carried hand-lettered signs professing similar slogans. Cars and trucks lined up in the opposite direction honked, waved and indicated support for the marchers’ cause.
As the marchers returned to campus, a voter registration drive was in full swing.
Although the march was organized by students, the school administration supported it, and college President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins participated, albeit in a golf cart because he was still recovering from surgery over the summer.
Hawkins addressed the marchers before they set, saying, “This is a special day, and it is humbling for me to see the student body take a stand for justice, a stand for equality in this country.”
Hawkins also put the occasion into historical perspective, citing the march in 1968 that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April.
“This body led a march from here to Battle Street, downtown and back,” Hawkins said. “It was an unorganized march, led by now Dr. Joe Lee, who was the student body president at that time. He led that march that day. He’s now battling cancer, but I still speak with him every few weeks.
“You, too, are going to make history, marching for great change in this country. Dr. King said a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that it is true.
“We talk about Black lives mattering. We talk about George Floyd, about that eight minutes and 46 seconds. I want you to think about how long that is while you are marching today. This gentleman,” indicating a painting of Floyd next to the podium, “died for all of us, that we might have justice in this country.”
He then asked how many of the people assembled prior to the march had been racially profiled. The overwhelming majority of hands went up, including Hawkins’ own.
“I have too,” he said, “and when it happens to you, you know what a horrible feeling it is.
“It has happened to me in many places. I’ve been in this city for 13 years, and it has happened to me right here in this city, several times, a number of times.
“You know it when you experience it. Which is why it is so exciting today to see so many members of the younger generation who understand the work for racial equality, the importance of equal rights and equal opportunity.
“When you’re marching today, I want you to think of all who came before you, who didn’t live to see equal rights and equal opportunity, I am proud to see so many of you here, but I wish there were even more. All of us need to march, with pride and dignity.
“You are the next generation. You will bring about major change in the community. And you will do it by using your head. You are all intelligent and you all understand the difference between right and wrong. You all understand racial equality and you can change the direction of the country.”
He also encouraged everyone to register to vote and fill out the census if they had not already done so.