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Luther Wade makes his mark leading Black Lives Matter protests

By Irene Rotondo
@irenerrotondo

The everlasting Black Lives Matter Movement had an epic, sudden outpouring of support in the form of protests, initially sparked by the murder of George Floyd, that spread to every single state in America this past summer.

It has been hailed by The New York Times as the “largest movement in U.S. history” with statistics proving more than half a million people present at 550 different protests across the country in a single day on June 6, 2020.

It would be safe to say that every student at Springfield College has at least heard of the Black Lives Matter Movement, if not some attending in their own towns.

During the summer months, the movement swept across all social media platforms in one capacity or another, mainly in photographs — the hauntingly beautiful images of protests filled the feeds.

Luther Wade, a junior, was one of many students who took part in protests. One protest Wade attended that stuck out in his mind, for a variety of reasons, was located in New London, Conn. He stated this march had a purpose that demanded immediate action, with a physical route activists took across the town.

“At that march, they actually spray-painted a Columbus statue. There were probably about a thousand people at that march, and we marched a good six miles,” said Wade. “The whole group marched the whole time, they stopped at Seats of Power Houses like the mayor’s house, people that are on The Board of Education, people that can make the change they’re hoping for.

“It was really cool to see all of that, I didn’t know protesting could be in such a direct way. I thought it was just more of a general way of saying, ‘Everything that’s happening, we don’t agree with and we want it to change,’ but the fact that it could be aimed specifically at stuff like that I thought was cool,” he added.

In addition, Wade said that the aforementioned Christopher Columbus statue was removed by the town of New London and put into storage because of the repeated vandalization.

Activists in the New London community had reportedly made it known the statue was disrespectful to the history of indigenous groups. This is not necessarily a new notion — countless statues across the country have been removed from their positions, due to the fact Columbus statues are seen as a symbol of genocide and hatefulness towards minority groups.

Instead of a generalized mass gathering of activists, Wade said that this New London march had strong direction with real petitions for change in the areas the activists desired. The positivity he experienced there inspired Wade to plan his own protest.

On June 14, 2020, Wade headed a mass Black Lives Matter protest in his hometown of Waterford, Connecticut. As a resident of the town from grade-school until now, Wade recognized that he was the one of the only Black students in his school.

He said that actually seeing the support from his white peers that they’ve professed for so long at his own protest was an amazing feeling.

“I remember I thought it was going to flop,” laughed Wade. “‘Cause, I mean, I am pretty well-known in my community, I played sports my whole time I was there… I helped out with coaching and I met a lot of kids and parents and the younger generations… I was very involved, so I knew I had support, but I knew that those people who supported me understood this issue already, and that they were going to do what they needed to do and all I had to do was ask them. It sucks that I shouldn’t have to, but the fact that they were willing to was enough for me at least in the setting we were in.

“I had left to go put out water stations, like, ten minutes before the march started, and there were probably twenty-five people there. And I got back, and I couldn’t even park. I was beeping, telling people to move out of the way… When we started marching, and I’m actually like yelling these things and people are repeating it and I’m speaking to this large audience and they’re just all ears, really seeming like they care, and they’re understanding… that, there’s not much more happier moments in my life than I’ve had there,” Wade enthusiastically stated.

Wade spoke at other protests in Connecticut, including ones in Groton, Ledyard, and more, and even ended up leading another march as well. While speaking at a march in East Lyme, he was handed a megaphone and told to lead the crowd down the street.

Wade said he felt it was because the crowd was listening the most intently to him out of all of the other speaker’s present.

“To be seen by the community you wanted to be seen by, and to feel that love that they projected, and to have been through what you’ve been through in that community and to see that and to feel that love… nothing will ever top that… Black Lives Matter, you’re not treating them as so, and these are steps we need to take and do to move forward to make sure they do matter and all lives can matter,” said Wade.

Though it seems the planning of mass-scale protests has come to a slow, Springfield College is ignoring that sentiment.

Wade, alongside senior Derek Webb, Dr. Calvin Hill, and President Mary-Beth Cooper, have planned for a protest to be hosted on campus on October 15.

This protest will be consistent with other Black Lives Matter protests, and is happening now in order to ensure the Movement is still electrified at Springfield College. An upcoming email containing details about the event will be sent out to the student body from Springfield College administration.

Photo Courtesy of Luther Wade

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