By Susie Webb

Why I March

Charese Matthews, mother of one

Fredericksburg, including a silent sit-in at the police station, a unity concert and a reenactment of a march by black Walker Grant graduates who changed their graduation location 70 years ago when they were told to enter through the back door.

One of the marchers, Charese Matthews, a 32-year Stafford mother, engaged to a police officer, spoke with Fredericksburg Parent and Family. She marched from Mayfield to City Hall on March 31 and has since attended other marches in the city.

Why are you protesting?

The main reason I’m protesting is because first and foremost, I am African American, and I do live in America. It has been hard for so many years, not just for myself but my family. We date back to slavery days, and those are things that still affect us to this day. My great-great grandmother was a slave. My mother and father lived through segregation. To sit here and say that these things still don’t affect us to this day—that’s a lie.

Were there any moments at the Fredericksburg protests that stuck out to you?

I don’t feel like in the year 2020 that we should still be doing this. It’s ridiculous to me. My mom is in her 60s sitting at home watching this, and she can’t come outside during the protests because we’re still dealing with the pandemic and the coronavirus. But, being over 60, why is she still dealing with these issues?

This is tiring. We are tired. Black people are tired. I’m dealing with it now at the age of 32. My daughter is 9, and she’s watching this. We went through the same thing with Martin Luther King Jr., so why are we still doing this in the year 2020? All we want is racial equality. It is really that simple.

What is it like parenting your daughter among all of this?

I don’t sugarcoat anything with my daughter. If she asks me a question, I tell her the truth because that’s the world we live in. You can’t sugarcoat anything when it comes to your children. I don’t want her going out being blind thinking that the world is fair when it’s really not. I have to prepare her for what reality is just like my mother did for me. But, at the same time, I still teach her respect. You give everyone a chance, but at the same time understand, yes honey, your skin is brown, and life may be a little bit harder for you.

 

Unity in the Community Concert

Ashleigh Chevalier, Mother of one, musician

I thank Armani Washington, the hard-working young man responsible for putting on the Unity in the Community event, for inviting me to perform. I was honored to stand beside my brothers and sisters in solidarity for truths we must understand—that black lives matter.

Racism is not gone. The only way to conquer this great evil in humanity and ultimately build a bridge over the divide is to do exactly what we would have to do in any damaged relationship: we must humbly seek truths outside of ourselves, within ourselves and, for me, seek the truth in Jesus Christ.

 

March from Mayfield to City Hall

Louis Jarrett, Father of four, former Marine

It’s crazy. I feel helpless as a parent. Growing up, I was able to ask my father about girls, how to change the oil in the car and right from wrong, but these questions my children ask me—based on what’s happening now—I don’t have answers. That troubles me because as a parent. You want to be able to give your kids something, some sense of security. And now, I don’t feel that I can. So, [marching] for me is a way to connect with our entire community—black and white. Black Lives Matter, definitely, but this is an opportunity to look my community in the eyes and see that we are not alone.

One thing COVID-19 has shown us is that we are all interdependent. The success of white children is intertwined with the success of black children.

One question my son asked was, “Can I not trust police officers?” I said, “No, no, no. That’s not the case.” Every profession has its good and bad members, and I don’t want him growing up thinking he can’t trust police officers. In the Marine Corps we are taught that we are all green. The only factor was are you on my team or not? And in this world, we were all on the same sheet of music.