November 29, 2021

Protesters march on Main Street in Homer

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Protesters walk down main Street Saturday at a Black Lives matter march in Homer.

Reed Cleland, a member and organizer of Cortland’s Black Lives Matter group, prepared the hushed crowd at Homer’s Durkee Memorial Park for Saturday’s march.

“The question I want everyone here to ask yourself: Are you ready to fight for someone you don’t know as hard as you’re willing to fight for yourself?” he said. “Real change. This is what it looks like. Real change comes from the bottom on up, never from the top on down.”

More than 100 people took part in the march from Durkee Memorial Park south to the Village Green as part of a protest against police brutality and systemic racism brought to light most recently with the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, despite pleas that Floyd couldn’t breathe.

Saturday’s march was the fourth protest near Cortland in the past two weeks following Floyd’s death. Protesters held signs May 30 along Main Street in Homer May 30. Hundreds gathered June 1 in front of Courthouse Park, in Cortland and another 50 a day later at Grace and Holy Spirit Church in Cortland.

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

John Dutcher, in wagon, holds up a sign before Saturday’s Black Lives Matter march in Homer.

“Honestly, it’s a beautiful thing to see because initially, there were talks of being met with resistance from the town but we are impressed and thankful to see how the town has turned out in support,” said Steve Williams, an organizer of the event.

Saturday’s march, he said, wasn’t the end up point for the movement.

“We have the ear of the community,” he said. “We have the eyes of the authorities and we’re looking to make real change” including legislative and policy change to help diversify Homer’s community.

Shawn Oliver of Cortland, wants change for his children, 5-year-old Myles and 4-year old Madison VanDee, who were also marching with their father and mother, Amber VanDee.

“When they grow up, I want their generation to understand that they need to continue this work and effort to change,” he said.

Oliver said that he hoped the march would inspire both his kids and the town to work to make changes each day not just in the community, but throughout the country and the world.

The Rev. Pete Williams, pastor of Grace and Holy Spirit Church — which hosted the June 2 gathering — said that as a white man, he believes it was important for white people to show their support for people of color.

“White people, especially, need to be here and say, ‘We stand with our black fellow citizens and we want to make our country better.’”

As the march finished at the Village Green, Melissa Kiser spoke to the crowd at the gazebo about how unity will be the only way to improve race relations, from both the public and the policing standpoint.

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Melissa Kiser, left, an organizer with Cortland’s Black Lives matter group, speaks Saturday on the Village Green in Homer. The group led a march from Durkee memorial Park to the Village Green in response to the recent death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“We are committed to an anti-racist community,” she said. “We are committed to bringing everyone together. And we will learn how to make the police all police — community-oriented police.”