Frederick’s March for Justice, a group of young activists who organized the widely attended march on June 5, had planned to take to the streets again on Juneteenth.
But on June 19, a day celebrating the freedom of enslaved people, it stormed in Frederick. So they moved their march and block party forward. And they had the perfect day in mind — the Fourth of July.
On Saturday, about 100 people marched from Frederick High School to Mullinix Park, chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace, defund the police.”
Before the march began, organizer Alijah Gee said the group decided to celebrate Juneteenth on Independence Day on purpose. On July 4, 1776, Black people were not free in America.
“[The day] means absolutely nothing to me. It means nothing to my people,” Gee said. “Because we aren’t free. And guess what? We still aren’t free.”
Aje Hill, with the group “I Believe in Me,” also spoke before the march. He advised attendees not to engage in empty activism like simply wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and only attending a protest or two.
“That’s not enough. We’re 350 years behind,” Hill said. “We need more than that.”
The marchers proceeded toward Mullinix Park, passing several July 4 parties and barbecues taking place in Baker Park. Frederick Police blocked off some streets so protesters could safely maneuver to their destination.
At Mullinix Park, organizer Akiyyah Billups encouraged everybody to get to know each other at the event. She referenced the block parties she attended on All Saints Street as a kid, and encouraged everybody to eat, dance and celebrate together.
After participants ate food, Dwayne Jenkins began the day’s performances by singing “A Change is Gonna Come.” Afterward, his wife Dee Jenkins spoke about the African American Resources, Cultural Heritage Society of Frederick County (AARCH) and the museum the organization is planning to open on All Saints Street in 2022.
“Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, only the hunter is glorified,” Dee Jenkins said, referencing AARCH’s mantra. “That’s our history in the United States for the last 400 years.”
She spoke about the history of Frederick, including the Black soldiers who went to Texas in 1865 to liberate the last enslaved people and Frederick Douglass’ speech at the old city hall — now Brewer’s Alley.
Jenkins is excited to be able to add the history being made by young people like the Frederick March for Justice organizers to the museum as well.
Blair Hudnall and Aisha Yssouf both spoke about America’s treatment of Black women, and encouraged Black women in attendance to use the same love and attention they show everyone in their lives to take care of themselves, too.
Yssouf hopes the movement can result in her feeling more comfortable in Frederick as a Black woman and allowing Black students to express themselves more. Yssouf said she had marginalizing experiences at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School during her time there.
Looking at the crowd, she said she is hopeful the people who come to marches can continue to support the community and use their voices for good.
Hudnall echoed a similar sentiment during her speech to the crowd.
“We cannot take our blackness off,” she said. “So you cannot step in and out of this space.”
Gee said she expected fewer people to come to the event because it was on a holiday, but she was happy with the turnout.
“It’s important if it’s five people or 500 people,” Gee said. “It’s the same message.”
Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley