Vigil
6:55 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Guilford County Youth React to Ferguson Shooting, Protests

Some Triad youth are worried the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri is not isolated.

Tuesday evening at Temple Emanuel on North Green Street, about 70 youth from across Guilford County held a working vigil to protest the killing of Michael Brown,  an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson,  Missouri by a white police officer,  Darrin Wilson, raising questions on whether racial bias motivated the killing.

The high-schoolers are graduates of ANYTOWN, the human-relations leadership camp hosted by the National Conference for Community & Justice of the Piedmont Triad.

Elisabeth Bachmann, 16,  is a junior at High Point Central High School. She says fear washed over her as she watched tanks rolling down Ferguson's streets facing off against unarmed protesters. “A lot of people might be yelling and they may be holding signs. But what they’ve got is a poster with some words on it and you see next to them these metal contraptions that are huge and dangerous and it seems very unequal and very oppressive.”

"As an African American male I have to pay attention how I act around people and how I present myself. That's how I ensure my safety because I don't want anything to draw attention to myself or to anybody else."

Chris Martinez also attends High Point Central. The 17-year-old senior says he's afraid to live in a country where a city's police has the authority to use military weapons against the people they are supposed to protect. "Bringing in soldiers is so over-rated," he says.

Trey Echard, 17, attends Southwest High School. The senior says he was shocked to see on television police in riot gear intimidating citizens with tanks and armed soldiers. "For the most part they were peaceful protests," recalls Echard. "You shouldn’t have to gas and pull the tanks out for a peaceful protest.”

“As an African American male I have to pay attention how to I act around people and how I present myself," says George Grier. "That’s how I ensure my safety because I don’t want anything to draw attention to myself or to anybody else. ”

“I don’t like the fact that people of color or minority are looked down upon," says Molly Sacket. She says she racism in her community all the time.  "If someone who was black walked into a store, then the store owner or the person working there would watch them closely because they would think they would steal something. I've seen that happen a lot. But if I walked into a store, no one would pay me any attention because I’m white.”

“I thought the United States was progressing and we were a progressive nation but at this point it’s not," says Achaia Dent, a rising senior at Weaver Academy. "Racism is just ignorance and I’ve experienced racism and I’m only 17 and I know I’ll experience more in my life.”

Overall, everyone agreed they feel safe in their neighborhoods. They also don't believe what is happening in Ferguson could happen in the Piedmont Triad. The evening ended with youth making action plans to counter racial bias in their neighborhoods and schools. Suggestions included protesting through poetry, talking with city leaders and holding similar vigils in elementary schools.