RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly three years after the statue to Maggie L. Walker was unveiled, scores of young people and their families attended a rally Saturday morning at the Jackson Ward plaza honoring the trailblazing force for women and African Americans.
The RVA Youth Rally was organized by 13-year-old Makayla White, who attends Elkhart-Thomson Middle School, and 18-year-old Stephanie Younger.
"This platform will be an outlet for the youth, to express how they feel based current events, suggest solutions and have a good time," reads a social media post about the rally.
Organizers urged attendees to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelins amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Being black in America comes with a sixth sense. In the fourth grade, my white teacher shouted the N-word at the top of her lungs, and I felt this chill strike in my body," Yasmeen Jaaber said. "It was like I feel pain, but I also felt this desire to keep my mouth shut if I knew what was good for me."
Chris Oliver called on the community to make changes.
"Let's change the way we eat; let's change the way we live; let's and change the way we treat other," Oliver said. "You see the old way wasn't working, so it's on us to do what we gotta do."
"You can't make the struggle in my skin inferior," Roscoe Burnems said. "We are not a hypothesis; we are absolute; we are an axiom; we are an undeniable truth; and the truth is it isn't always rebel flags, racist statues and bad cops that is our plight. Sometimes it's the people standing idly by pretending they don't hear us fall."
The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is located at 600 N. 2nd Street in Richmond.
Walker was the first woman to open a bank in the United States in 1903. She was also a civil rights pioneer, entrepreneur and mother who pushed for economic empowerment and independence in her neighborhood.
The statue, which was part of a 20-year effort to pay tribute to Walker’s achievements, was unveiled on June 15, 2017.
The rally came ahead of hundreds of people converging on Monument Avenue and West Broad Street for the 5,000 Man March.
Saturday's demonstrations followed more than two weeks of unrest, both in Richmond and nationwide, in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.
Four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd's death. One of the officers was charged with murder after he pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.
Tavares Floyd, who is a cousin of George Floyd, spoke briefly following the march and called for law enforcement to be held accountable.
"I want to say to the police chief, and to law enforcement leaders all around this nation, if you can’t step up and right the wrongs, you are just as much part of the problem as everybody else," Floyd said.