It started last Monday with a post on social media.
“I think it’s time for a change, and I do not wish to remain silent any longer,” Asha Agro posted on Facebook.
The 15-year-old Glendale High School student wanted her voice – and the voice of the community – to be heard at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, Saturday morning, at the Tillsonburg Clock Tower at the corner of Bridge Street and Broadway.
Noting that precautionary measures would be taken – and that physical distancing would be encouraged – Agro said the protest would bring “attention to injustice and discrimination the people of colour deal with. This is not a riot, uproar or excuse for violence.
“I feel it’s time to stand up and use our voices. Be the change you want to see and join me in standing against racism!”
And on Saturday, more than 100 people joined Agro at the Rotary Clock Tower – most of them wearing masks, most of them social distancing, and most of them holding homemade rally signs.
Together, they shared a message:
Black Lives Matter.
I understand I’ll never understand, however I STAND #blacklivesmatter.
Silence = Violence.
We are the generation of change.
Silent no more, Black Lives Matter.
Racism isn’t cool. Change my mind!
Start teaching your kids to love, not to hate!
In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends – Martin Luther King Jr. – Black Lives Matter.
Justice should be colour blind.
We are all human.
Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting FILMED.
Doing everything in my power to raise my children to stand up and fight for your child. Not another generation, this ENDS NOW!
We are all one.
If you’re tired about hearing about racism, imagine how tired people are of experiencing it.
When you know better, you do better.
Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Respect, Love, Peace for one another.
If you’re not LIVID, you’re not LISTENING.
Racism is a pandemic too!
Against Racism, BLM.
All lives cannot matter until Black lives do!
“I realized some people have to endure this every single day,” said Agro at Saturday’s rally. “They have to wake up and give themselves a pep talk. They have to say, ‘I am a human being. Today, I may be hated on… just because of my skin colour.’ They have to sit down with their young ones and tell them about all the evil in this world. To me, it still feels like I’m in a dream. I can’t even fathom the pain and suffering that some people of colour have to experience.
“In my family, we were taught to love, not to hate. As I grew angrier about all of this, I felt more lost. I went to my mom and I asked her, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ And she said those three golden words. Be the change. And that’s why we’re all here, right? We need change.”
Agro said she knows there can be protests every day and night and there will still be people who disagree, but she hoped those people would see their positivity and acceptance of others and be ashamed.
“They will think twice before they speak because I know, and you all know, that there is only one right answer and it’s that everyone should be treated equally – because Black Lives Matter.
“I am here because I want to be the change. I know in my heart that every human deserves the same. We all deserve to have dignity and respect. It’s been countless years that these issues have been happening and yet we are here still fighting the exact same fight that we’ve been fighting for so long. And we will continue to fight until racism is eradicated.
“And yes, we may be here, we may be at risk for COVID, but black people are forced to put themselves at risk every single day by walking down the street… by birdwatching… by being a human being. I will not stop fighting until that fight is over.”
Agro thanked everyone for coming, and asked that they stand in solidarity.
“People can say there is no racism in Tillsonburg, or even Canada, but I could not disagree more. I’ve had people come to me, and thank me, to say that I’ve made them feel heard or seen or accepted. If you are listening and have ever felt judged, or hated, or anything of that matter, I want to say that I care. Everyone who is here, cares.
“And I know that I can’t change how some people are, but I mean that’s why we’re all here – for change – because this isn’t black versus white, or us versus the cops, this is so much more than that. This is everyone versus racism. Evil and hatred have no room in this world, good will prevail, and I won’t rest until change is made, and I know none of you will either.
“Black lives matter today, tomorrow, and forever. We are all here to fight the same battle. We aren’t here to get violent, we’re here to get loud. Keep your signs high, keep your voices loud. I want to hear it. Black Lives Matter.”
Asked, ‘Why do it in Tillsonburg – such a small town?’ Agro replied, “we need the change to start right where we are, right here. I love my community, I love living in Tillsonburg, but I don’t know everyone here and I know there’s probably some people out here who disagree with why I’m out here today, and like I said in my speech, I just hope they are embarrassed. I hope they are in their homes right now disagreeing – silently – because we are out here, loudly, speaking what is right. And that’s Black Lives Matter.”
Agro didn’t know how many people to expect, but smiled, “I have a big family, so… 30 maybe?”
The rally had triple that, easily.
“I didn’t expect a turnout this big,” Agro admitted. “But like said, whether it’s five or 500 people, we’re all here for the same reason. This fight never stops. We will all stand in solidarity together forever. This fight doesn’t just stop today, it will continue on, and I know that all of you are good people – this will always continue. And we won’t stop until everyone gets justice.”
Not all of the responses on social media were positive, despite the message, despite their positivity.
“I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” Agro summed up. “Everyone can say whatever they want to say. I know that, in my heart, everyone deserves the same, they all deserve respect. So if people disagree with me, that’s okay, but I know what I believe is the right thing. I know that it’s what everyone else should be preaching.”