As India Murray drove past hundreds of people gathering on the afternoon of June 9 in what would be a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, she was overcome by a wave of emotion.
“I was like, why am I getting emotional?” the 23-year-old Manteo resident said. “But I think it all came back and it hit me how real this is and how for so long people of color, we’ve felt so alone and so unheard, and definitely at the beach, you know, because we’re definitely a minority here ….
“So that feeling of looking out there and seeing all types of people from all walks of life, I think it was so powerful,” Murray said. “And I think it meant for me that there is hope and that there are people that have our back on this beach. Even hearing the officers go up and speak, there was so much hope for the Outer Banks. It was like a breath of fresh air, to be honest.”
About 500 people gathered at the College of the Albemarle campus in Manteo for a rally of support in the aftermath of the tragic killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer caught on video.
The event was organized by the Dare Minority Coalition in conjunction with the Manteo Police Department. It featured speeches, songs and an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence, representing the amount of time the officer’s knee was on Floyd’s neck.
Murray understood the anger and frustration that prompted rioting and looting at some demonstrations, but the Black Lives Matter movement for her is one of recognition and understanding and is deeply personal.
“So, the BLM movement, for me, personally, is for my mom, who endured through a whole lot to get my family to where they are,” she said. “It’s for my brother, who is a black male in America who has to raise a son who’s also half black. And then it’s for my sister, who has two college degrees and was the only black girl in her graduating class from (Manteo High School).”
Murray was encouraged by the peaceful and inclusive nature of the gathering here, as well as the words from local law enforcement officials, such as Manteo Chief of Police Vance Haskett and Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie.
“As Manteo Chief of Police, a white man, and a man of God, I sat back and thought about what Black Lives Matter movement means to me,” Haskett told the crowd. “I acknowledge that there is definitely racism that African-Americans experience. I also acknowledge that it should never exist, and I will not tolerate it in my police force or in any walk of my personal life.”
Doughtie told the gathering, “Without question, what we saw with the death of George Floyd goes against everything a law enforcement officer represents. We are dedicated to protect and to serve, and we failed miserably.”
Attendees and speakers agreed that the June gathering was a great first step, but as the Reverend Dr. Thomas H. Priest Jr., the new pastor at Roanoke Island Presbyterian Church, asked the crowd, “When you leave here today, what are you going to do? Are you going to say we had a good time? That the weather was nice? We heard good speeches? We heard good word from God? What are you going to do? We have heard the words; we have heard the prayers. Now it’s time to take action.”
George Carver, executive director of the Dare Minority Coalition, said that he and his group are working on major programs for the community, such as accessible housing, a re-entry program, and a community outreach program.
“When I first put the word out that I was getting this established,” he said, “I got a lot of feedback: ‘Ugh, why don’t you start with one program? Why don’t you get a couple of fish fries, a couple car washes under your belt?’
“You see, doing small things, you get a small output. So, look, I’m thinking big with my board members. We’re gonna change the world. We’re gonna start with Dare County,” he said.
Murray said that she’s had productive conversations with white people about the present movement and the long history of racism and police brutality within the black community. She’s sad that it took so long to resonate and required video of the deaths of people such as Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, an African American man killed while jogging in Georgia.
“I think just standing out there with those people I’ve had conversations with,” she said, “and seeing them going from, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was legit,’ into ‘Wow, I’m going to fight for what’s right at this point,’ that was awesome, too. That was definitely groundbreaking.”
Murray’s older sister, Paris, has bravely voiced her experience with hate and racism growing up as a black woman, and she, too, attended the rally.
“Today, I felt hope and love in the community that curated me,” Paris Murray said. “The same community where I’ve felt so much hurt and have experienced so much hate and racism. Today I saw that hope and love in this community is louder than all of that hate. Today, they estimated that over 500 people joined together to protest injustices (to) black people. Today, the Sheriff of Dare County and Police Chief of Manteo joined us in solidarity and gave speeches speaking out against police brutality and racism. Today I felt seen for all that being black means! Today I felt heard! Today I felt supported! Today I felt like black lives matter.”