Nearly 200 people showed up at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara on July 3 to participate in a Black Lives Matter march organized by members of the high school’s Black Student Union (BSU). Organizer Melanie Gichane said they wanted to hold an event sooner, but concerns over social distancing made them hesitant. Finally, they decided they had to take action.
“We just felt like we can’t wait any longer. We have to start speaking now,” said Gichane. “We planned it today mainly just because tomorrow is July 4th. People are going to be celebrating independence, but there’s still many people who are in prisons that aren’t free and they shouldn’t be in there. People who got killed; they shouldn’t be dead.”
Gichane is an incoming senior at Wilcox High School and the co-president of the school’s BSU. She says she, her co-president Jen and other BSU officers were hoping to get the support of their classmates, but they never expected a turnout like this.
“I’m really excited. I was actually expecting 50 people from our school. I wasn’t expecting to see people I don’t even know. Half of these people, I genuinely never met in my life. It’s amazing to know that they found out about this and were able to come out,” said Gichane.
“People need to not forget what’s going on. People are treating this kind of like a trend and that’s not okay,” said Kaleb Watkins, who drove up from Morgan Hill.
“With everything going on I feel like the movement has kind of slowed down a little bit and people haven’t really been acknowledging it as much,” said Erica Clinton of Gilroy. “I wanted to make sure I’m going out and doing as much as I can to make sure that this is not just a moment, it’s a movement. Making sure that people know that black lives matter today, tomorrow and every single day after that.”
The march started at Wilcox High School and went down Bowers Avenue and Kiely Boulevard. Marchers received a number of horn honks and cheers of support as they made their way to Central Park where a rally was held.
“I’m tired of having to tell people that black lives matter because I matter,” an impassioned Gichane told the crowd. “You can’t stop here. This isn’t the end of the protest. Keep on posting. Keep on voting. Keep on talking about them because I won’t forget and I hope all of you guys won’t either.”
The group also held a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to remember the victims of police brutality, racism and discrimination. Afterwards, march participants were invited to speak about their own experiences with racism.
Santa Clara resident Viola Smith, spoke to the crowd about her memories of school during desegregation. Smith says it was important for her and her family to be at the July 3 march and she was proud to see her neighbors out there marching with her.
“What I appreciate is, even though we don’t have a large population of African American and black people in Santa Clara, all of these people out here know that black lives matter,” said Smith. “It’s not just black people. That’s why it was important to be out here. To show unity. To show that it’s not just a black issue. This is an American problem that’s got to be addressed.”