COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Hundreds of people from all across South Carolina marched from Allen University to the State House on Saturday to fight for African Americans, and all people in South Carolina, to be treated equally.
The Faith for Black Lives Matter March was the finale event of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Juneteenth Week of Action to stand up against race injustice.
The peaceful marchers practiced social distancing, and everyone wore a mask, while marching down the street in groups of two.
“In 1965, on this very spot, a march was led from here to the State House for the same reasons we’re marching today,” said Bishop Samuel Green, presiding bishop of the church.
For many, Saturday’s march was a sign hope.
“It really does my heart good to see that people coming together for such an important cause and in fact we encourage more people to join in the fight,” said Columbia resident Tameka Boukmight.
She marched with her two children Saturday, talking to them about race relations and how to deal with encounters with police officers.
“My skin color is not a crime,” said her daughter, Zayla Boukmight.
The march also demonstrated an alliance between faith leaders and lawmakers, and it gave some a newfound confidence that the South Carolina of the future will be inclusive of all people.
“This is not just an emotional upheaval, this is a determination to see things different and changed in South Carolina,” Green said.
The march ended with a rally at the State House.
From church leaders of different faiths, to the SC NAACP president, to Majority Whip James Clyburn, leaders across South Carolina stood front and center calling for equality and justice through policy change, while emphasizing the power of voting on Saturday.
Through prayer, song, and speeches, AME church leaders, community leaders and political leaders voiced ideas on how they believe South Carolina can change for the better.
“Because I can’t breathe in a nation that don’t consider me a human being, I can’t breathe,” Green said.
Faith is a key the bishop says he hopes to see starts with action by local lawmakers and community leaders.
“We know that faith without works is dead, and that activism without action is just a conversation,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.
Housing, criminal justice, education, healthcare and voting were areas that leaders say needs policy change.
“You march to change the condition,” Reverend Nelson B. Rivers said. “The police will not change without voting, economic equity will not come without voting, the change you ask for requires a transaction.
Alongside church leaders in our state, both local and state politicians stressed that policy change begins with voter turnout in November.
“We are going to march to the ballot boxes and our purpose will be to restore dignity to the White House of this country and our purpose will be to restore dignity to every single life,” Clyburn said.
Benjamin pledged to the crowd he will continue to work on police reform within the Capital City.
“I want to commit to you on behalf of the City of Columbia and the Columbia Police Department that we will not only continue to work to reinvent policing, but re-imagining everything we do,” Benjamin said.
All who spoke echoed that change comes by working together.
“We are standing up like men and women, and we are declaring that we want freedom and we are going fight for freedom and we are going to stand for justice and we are going to stand for justice for everyone in this world,” Green said.
Faith for Black Lives and the Seventh District AME Church have collaborated to form the Jubilee Justice agenda. It’s a nine tenet policy agenda, click or tap here to read the agenda in full.