March, festival promote racial justice

Published 11:37 am Monday, June 22, 2020

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ALABASTER – A Juneteenth Festival and Black Lives Matter march were held in Alabaster on Saturday, June 20.

“We’re concerned about our black brothers,” said Pastor Gerry Bivins, who organized the march with the Concerned Citizens of Alabaster group. “We’re concerned about our relationship with the police.”

Activists marched from the Alabaster First United Methodist Church’s Restore facility to the Alabaster Municipal Complex, where festival attendees had already gotten the day started with spoken word performances, history facts, music and more.

Several local pastors and leaders spoke at the conclusion of the march, which featured participants chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “hands up don’t shoot” and “say his name: George Floyd.”

Bishop Glenn Brown offered a prayer for repentance and reconciliation to begin the program before Sandra Cohill read a poem.

Alabaster Councilwoman Sophie Martin thanked those who organized the event, and the attendees for letting their voices be heard.

“I am so very proud of our city,” Martin said. “We love each other, care for each other and lift each other up. I think we need to be a part of the solution.”

Larry Sailes talked about the importance of voting.

“In 2016, if you didn’t vote, you’ve got no right to complain,” Sailes said. “No one has a reason or an excuse not to vote.”

Sailes also announced his intention to seek the Ward 6 seat on the Alabaster City Council.

“Change is here, and it’s up to us to embrace this change,” he said.

Jon Payne, a former professor at the University of Alabama, encouraged white people to support the push for racial justice.

“Our voices are needed to stand up to the oppression that has gone on for far too long,” Payne said.

Bishop Sylvester Mixon talked about a racially-based, negative experience with a neighbor while building a home in Alabaster.

“Be those who make that choice every day to respect other human beings,” Mixon said. “I believe this is the way forward for our community.”

Pastor Larry Coleman said he is encouraged by how people are joining together to support the cause.

“Every race has the right to demand equal treatment,” Coleman said.

Alabaster City Council President Scott Brakefield, who is running for mayor, said now is a time to “listen to understand instead of listening to respond.”

“We’re at a very critical time in our state, our country and our city,” Brakefield said.

Bivins noted that to be “pro-black” does not mean one is “anti-white.”

“We are Alabaster strong,” Bivins said. “This is a great place to live.”

The festival was held prior to the march and was organized by the “Change! Alabaster” group.

There were stations where residents could fill out the 2020 Census questionnaire, register to vote, learn about what ward they live in for municipal elections and give suggestions for the Change! Alabaster group.

Also available were free cupcakes and water, food trucks, a bounce house and more.