The Marble Falls community, like much of the nation, is exploring race and racism with two peaceful events to encourage conversations.
On Friday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m., St. Frederick Baptist Church hosts “Race and Racism: A Conversation.” The church is located at 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls.
On Saturday is a Black Lives Matter demonstration from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J in Marble Falls. The rally features speakers, a unity march, a prayer, and lunch. Organizers will also lead attendees in nine minutes of silence, symbolizing the amount of time a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd, killing the 46-year-old black man during an arrest.
The Rev. George Perry of St. Frederick’s will speak at both events along with church member Bessie Jackson. Perry said he’s spent much time in prayer asking for guidance and for people to come together with open ears, minds, and hearts.
“I’m a big believer in that you practice what you preach,” he said of why he wanted to be part of both events. “A leader should lead by example.”
He told the young organizers of the Black Lives Matter rally that “this can’t stop here. You have to move forward to get other things across: Be bold; walk in areas that are not comfortable.”
Joining Perry and Jackson as featured speakers at Friday’s forum are church members Amber Bales and Shalonda Crawford.
Perry said the church is the perfect place to hold such an event.
“Most people feel safe and secure and know God’s children who act in a Godly fashion,” he said. “Church is a place of healing.”
The Saturday demonstration in the park will feature 13 local speakers.
Fermin Ortiz, a Highland Lakes resident and businessman, asked to be one them.
“I really respect the young people for doing this and taking it upon themselves to be here,” he said. “I want to support them.”
Shyann Brown, Mauri Harris, and Bryce Laake, three recent Marble Falls High School graduates, organized the protest.
Ortiz, who is originally from Puerto Rico, moved to Texas when he was 5. He grew up in a time when it would have been illegal to marry his wife, Jennifer, who is white. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriage.
Later, Ortiz recalled the couple’s children coming home one day from school and asking him and Jennifer to explain a derogatory word classmates had called them.
Another resident, Becca Schafer, was asked to speak during the demonstration but hesitated because she “wasn’t sure anyone wants to know what Becca Schafer has to say about this.”
While she witnessed bigoted attacks on her cousins, Schafer, who is Latina but fair complected, did not have the same experience.
So why would anyone want to hear her speak, Schafer asked. Fellow speaker Calvin Richard answered.
“Calvin said, ‘You absolutely need to speak, you bring the community together. You’re the glue,’” she said. “I was humbled by their persistence.”
The Rev. Perry summed up the feelings of many of the speakers and organizers of the two events.
“I’m praying that folks get healed and that the protest plays out as a peaceful protest and people will begin to heal and other folks will understand what is going on so they can break the chains to understand what they’re doing, what they say that’s offensive, and we can all start talking and walking the way God intends us to.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY SCHEDULE
- 9 a.m. — statement of purpose
- 9:10 a.m. — community speakers
- 10 a.m. — unity march beginning and ending in Johnson Park
- 11:15 a.m. — “I Can’t Breathe” nine minutes of silence
- 11:30 a.m. — community speakers
- 12:05 p.m. — prayer
- 12:15 p.m. — lunch
- 1 p.m. — event ends
Speakers are: Pastors Shane Wenger of Elevate Church, Dr. Ross Chandler of First Baptist Church of Marble Falls, and George Perry of St. Frederick Baptist Church; St. Frederick’s member Bessie Jackson; Verus Strength and Fitness owner and Marble Falls resident Calvin Richard; poet Caryl Calstyn; Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes co-founder Fermin Ortiz; caterer and business owner Becca Schafer; 2020 Marble Falls High School graduates and event organizers Andre Jackson, Bryce Laake, Mauri Harris, and Shyann Brown; and adult organizer Monique Breaux.