MANCHESTER – A teen’s passion for the hurt she has observed around the nation and strong inspiration by her sister, led to a Black Lives Matter protest in Pine Lake Park.
The rally like many protests being held across the country was sparked following the unjust death of George Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer on May 25.
That officer, Derek Chauvin, was shown in a video that went viral, putting his knee to Floyd’s throat cutting off his air supply and ultimately causing his death, while three fellow officers watched.
All four officers were fired the next day and Chauvin, who is white, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter days later. On June 3 that charge was upgraded to second-degree murder and fellow officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood near the others were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Mikayla McSulla is 14 years old and she will be starting her sophomore year at Manchester High School this fall. She stood beside her sister, mother, friends and more than 100 supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement under the pavilion area and open field on June 8.
With a strong emotional voice and some tears in her eyes she told The Manchester Times how the event came to be. “The purpose of this protest was to show that my community is here for my black culture and I wanted to show that we have people here that want to come out and support that.
“Seeing everything that is going on in the world right now with black culture it really gets me upset. It is hard to sit back and just watch. I wanted to take action,” Mikayla said.
The teen said that in a conversation with her older sister Desiree she knew what had to be done. “She inspired me to come out and finally take a stand because other people aren’t. She gave me information. She has been there from the start of this because she is the person who has been helping me with everything. She is my inspiration and who told me to take a stand and not just sit back and watch,” Mikayla added.
The youth also had help from her mother Cinthia McSulla. “She raised me to be the person I am so that I don’t just sit down and watch and that I take a stand and be the person I want to be so I can show everyone we can be great and we are not a minority and because of the color of our skin we are not less than everybody else and should be treated equally. We should have the same rights as everyone else. It just hurts and I want to take a stand for my culture,” Mikayla added.
“Growing up here and going away to college and coming back here I have garnered the tools to really inform people,” Desiree McSulla said. “My sister and I have a 10 year difference and I want to show her what reality is like. Around the world it might not be her same experience. There is a lot of people out there and no community is exempt from it.”
Desiree McSulla added, “there is racism and there is black injustice and a lot of things are rooted in different sectors and I just want to expose her to that.”
Their mother added that she was honored that her daughters had a strong role and organizing the day’s assembly of township residents for a good cause. “They are inspiring people about being black because I am not a minority I am white but I have always taught my kids that you are half black and you cannot forget that because you look like you are black and what they are doing is profiling and profiling shouldn’t be.”
Mayor Kenneth Palmer spoke during the protest along with Manchester High School Principal Dennis Adams.
“We do know that black lives do matter. We are here to hear your concerns. To help you with your pain and figure out how we can move forward. The tough part of working together is actually listening. Today as your mayor, as a resident, as your friend, my job here is to listen to you. A 14-year-old putting this together is pretty special,” the mayor said.
Adams offered up a prayer for mutual understand and peace before he spoke. “I’m a firm believer that when God is in the middle of something then we can get things done.
“It is really inspiring to see everyone here of different colors. Since I’ve been an athlete all my life, I see it as being part of a team and we are on a team to overcome evil. There are people that are perpetually evil but we are here to overcome that.”
“We are here to stand with the black community and to stand with each other and to make sure everyone in our community feels safe, protected and that they feel love. Together we can make a difference,” Adams said.
Members of the Township’s Police Department were present to distribute water to the protestors. Police Chief Lisa Parker said, “I met Mikayla and she’s in 9th grade and she is an amazing young lady who has a message which was a peaceful protest to support more community engagement between police and the black community and I support her message. I find her very inspiring.”
The chief added that “our goal here today was to help facilitate a peaceful protest and to be a part of it. Our NEO guys, who have made so many relationships with the kids in the schools over the last five years through our opioid awareness program, wanted to be here because we anticipated a lot of students from the high school and we wanted to hand out water and to be part of a good message.”
Resident Pam Quatse was mindful of social distancing and carried a parasol to protect her from the sun but she also brought a sign and sported a shirt proclaiming the message of Black Lives Matter. “I think this is long overdue. Black lives matter every day and it is a damn sin that another black man had to die.”
The protest ended with a march around the block and returned to the pavilion for a few more words of thanks from Mikayla to those who took part in the protest.