"The March for Black Lives, a peaceful rally organized by Sparta High School students Rachel Young and Olivia Finkeldie, was attended by several hundred who listened to speakers talk about their experiences with racism."
SPARTA — Teddy Sibblies, a longtime Newton resident, has often been asked by white friends what it feels like to be judged based on the color of his skin.
“As a Black man, racism makes you feel like you were born with a hereditary disease,” Sibblies said. “This reality is forced upon you. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t do anything to deserve it, yet it’s yours forever to deal with,” he said of racial inequality.
Sibblies lives in Sussex County, which has a Black population of about 3%, according to Census figures. On Saturday, he took part in the march for equality in Dykstra Park in Sparta.
The March for Black Lives, a peaceful rally organized by Sparta High School students Rachel Young and Olivia Finkeldie, was attended by several hundred who listened to speakers talk about their experiences with racism.
The crowd later marched roughly a half-mile to the Sparta Police Department on Main Street, holding signs and chanting their message before returning to the park.
The rally was the latest in a nationwide movement in response to the recent deaths of Black individuals at the hands of police, including George Floyd, who died while handcuffed by Minneapolis police May 25. Sussex County has already held peaceful demonstrations in Vernon and on the Newton Green, with many of those attendees from two weeks ago also on hand in Sparta Saturday.
Speakers at the most recent county rally condemned the deaths of Floyd and other unarmed Black individuals including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and their overall message expressed a desire for equality for people of all backgrounds.
“We did not say this has been perpetuated by all white people or all rich people or all police officers or all conservatives or all liberals,” said Saskia Brown, an administrator for the Sparta Township School District, who stressed that she was speaking only as a member of the community. “We are simply asking for a system that is just, equitable, and holds anyone accountable for their vicious actions that violate the rights of any human beings.”
The high school organizers urged other young people to become involved in the movement for racial equality.
“As children, we are the future of America,” Young said. “We are the next generation of politicians, of voters, of activists. We will be inheriting this nation, with all of its problems, with all of its opportunities, so we might as well do something now to make that future a better place for everyone.”
“We are fighting together because divided we fall,” added Kathrine Ermeus, a Sparta High School senior and one of a small percentage of Black residents in the township. “We can make the change that has long been overdue in our community, in our county, in our state, in our country and worldwide.”
Speakers also stressed the importance of voting for candidates with similar desires for change.
Sibblies and event co-organizer Scott Paul announced at the rally they will run for Newton Town Council and Sussex County Freeholder Board, respectively.
Howard Burrell, the mayor of Vernon and the only Black mayor in Sussex County, said the recent rallies in the country have been noteworthy both for the diversity of participants and their occurrences in many “small-town” communities.
“This peaceful protest, and the thousands of others, are making a significant difference in moving our country forward toward achieving that ‘more perfect union’ that’s articulated as an objective in the preamble to our nation’s Constitution,” Burrell said.
Source: NJ Herald, https://www.njherald.com/news/20200621/sparta-march-promotes-social-equality-for-all?fbclid=IwAR0XeXFHFFEw8IXvcZOC-D0GgYJv4iS6RmxdtafrIdpAmc_Ml5_DZ0j2eV8