Students organize Maine March for Racial Justice


Three students have organized a statewide March for Racial Justice while balancing Colby academics and extracurriculars.

Colby students are engaged and active in social justice issues, but often just on campus. Three members of the class of 2018, Marcques Houston, Angie Peterson, and Adrienne Carmack, are changing that. They are the organizers for Maine’s March for Racial Justice, which will take place on Oc. 1 in Waterville, starting at Colby’s own Pugh Center and ending on downtown’s Castonguay’s square.

Houston, Peterson and Carmack all have significant experience in activism and organizing, both on and off of Colby’s campus. Carmack has worked in campus activism for both Planned Parenthood and Hillary for America, Colby’s Hearty Girls Healthy Women, and participated in the off campus No Ban No Wall protest. She also worked part time as a fellow on Hil- lary Clinton’s 2016 presiden- tial campaign in Maine and interned for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Houston is involved with Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity (SOB- LU), Campus Conversations on Race and Community Conversations on Race, and is also the Co-President of the Student Government Association. Peterson is involved in the Women of Color Alliance, as well as SOBLU. She was involved in efforts over Trustee Weekend to address a lack of transparency on issues with the Colby Administration.

Carmack initially learned about the March for Racial Justice during her intern- ship in Washington D.C. this summer, where she worked at the Center for Community Change as a communications intern.

The National March for Racial Justice was born in June after the acquittal of Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety for his role in the death of Philando Castile. Castile was shot at point-blank range during a routine traffic stop, with the encounter live-streamed by his girlfriend. The video transfixed and horrified the nation; the same day of Yanez’ acquittal, anger and disappointment was immediately routed into action. First ,it was a Facebook page, then a website, and a Generosity campaign that has generated over $16,000.

The march in D.C. will take place on Sept. 30, and hopes to draw attention to police brutality, mass incarceration, violence against people who identify as transgender, violence against muslim communities, issues that primarily affect women and women of color, the oppression of native peoples, anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-Semitism.

Carmack knew that organizing the Maine March for Racial Justice in Waterville could be successful and powerful, saying “the energy and resources are right here, there’s the same opportunity here as there is anywhere else.” She was quick to reach out to those she knew could help her make a difference— Colby students. Peterson `18 and Houston `18 answered the call with enthusiasm.

“I said yes, absolutely,” said Peterson. “I’d help in any way possible.”

Carmack, Peterson, and Houston have placed a careful and specific emphasis on the title of the march: The Maine March for Racial Justice.

“When we have conversations about race on this campus, there’s a focus on the Colby student experience, but we wanted to engage the local community and focus on Maine,” said Peterson.

“We explicitly don’t want it to be a Colby event,” added Peterson. Peterson and her co-organizers have reached out extensively, creating a rideshare to Colby to allow more participants.

Carmack was quick to add her take on the subtleties that define racial issues in the state as a whole.

“It’s easy for Mainers to condemn Charlottesville,” she said “But it can be difficult for them to talk about white privilege and what that means here.”

The Colby organizers hope to make people more aware that racism (including racism against indigenous people, immigrants, and refugees) does exists in Maine. One of the biggest hurdles is the sub- tleties of that racism in a state that is 97 percent white.

“We have to address white privilege within a primarily white community,” said Car- mack. “It’s always a difficult thing to start that conversation. But there are so many opportunities to start it, and we want to create a scaffolding for that conversation.”

According to their mission statement, The Maine March hopes to be a collaborative movement of communities of color and allies across the state of Maine, united in demands for equality. The statement describes a sobering reality of Maine that includes a rise in KKK activity, hate groups, and anti-immigrant rhetoric—rhetoric that comes from places as high as the governor’s office.

“There’s a perception that because this is a conservative, primarily white area, that no one cares,” said Carmack. “That’s not true.”

There have been some negative responses, including accusations that racism does not exist in Waterville, but Carmack has insisted that such attitudes haven’t put a dent in their plans. “[Negative feedback] hasn’t been that much of a roadblock, because it’s been outweighed by so much support.”

Carmack, Peterson, and Houston have been supported by the Colby Administration, as well as the local community, throughout the process.

“Organizing a march is actually very easy to do online,” said Peterson with a laugh.

In order to host a protest, march or other gathering, a permit (which can be acquired from the police department or Parks and Recreation, in most circumstances) is necessary to legitimize the protest and prevent it from being shut down by police. Separate permits are also needed for banners.

“It’s been a lot of permits, gathering speakers, and outreach,” said Carmack.

That outreach has included contacting progressive groups throughout Maine, including the American Civil Liberities Union, Maine People’s Alliance, and Planned Parenthood. “We sent a lot of cold emails,” said Carmack. “It’s a daily process.”

Last week, a student collaborators meeting was held in Portland. The ME March for Racial Justice will be including student organizers from United of Southern Maine, Bowdoin, Bates, and other Maine schools.

The march will begin Oct. 1 at 12:00 p.m., when protesters will march from Colby’s Pugh Center along Mayflower Hill Drive, down Gilman street to Center and Main street, and end on Castonguay Square. The whole march covers about two miles. By 1:00 p.m. attendees will be gathered outside the Waterville Town Hall, where speakers will address the crowd. At 2 p.m. facilitators will conduct workshops in various locations in downtown Waterville. Donuts, coffee, bathrooms, and the assistance of the Colby shuttle will all be provided at the Pugh Center meeting point.

Speakers are still being recruited, but currently include Colby’s Rabbi Isaacs, the current president of SOBLU, and a representative from the International Socialist Organization of Portland. Students will also be facilitating some workshops, where the organizers hope to get professors involved.

Colby’s administration has been helpful in the organizing process as well. “David Greene has been very supportive and we’re hoping he shows up for the rally,” said Houston.

Organizers are still accepting volunteers, who are needed as crowd marshals and intersection marshals (to help protesters cross the road and organize safely). Hands to help set up and clean up are also appreciated.

The Colby organizers have some final words of encouragement for Colby students, faculty and staff.

“If you think you don’t want to go, you should,” said Houston. “It’s very pertinent, given the political climate. It’s a very structured way to learn a lot.”

“At a time in our country where silence is complacency,” added Carmack. “We need genuine engagement. It’s a call to action to create ideas and change.”

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