Written by: Sarah Chase
The fight against police brutality has been one of many, but now citizens worldwide are protesting against the slain acts of police in hopes of change, reform, and consequences. Laila Muhammad is a senior at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology. Muhammad is also the Vice President of the African American Culture
Club as well as the Third Vice President of the Camden County East Youth Council of the NAACP.
Muhammad was able to attend a protest in her town on June 6, 2020. She believes that protesting is one of the best ways to bring about change and action. She has been able to attend three black lives matter protests and every one that she has participated in has not only been peaceful, but she says that she loved the protesting atmosphere.
“Protesting is important to me because it shows how much you care about what is going on in today’s society. In fact, after the first one I went to, I went to another the next day because I felt like one just was not enough. Protesting is a good way to bring awareness to certain situations especially if you do not have a platform for it,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad describes her experience as “amazing”. Whenever she first arrived there were tables set up for Voter Registration for people 17 and up, and also a table from the Washington Township High School NAACP who were collecting bail funds for people unjustly convicted. At 12:30 their walk began. Muhammad and the crowd headed towards the Washington
Lake Park with a police escort the entire time to block off roads and keep everything peaceful.
“Some of the things we chanted included ‘No justice, no peace!’, ‘Black Lives Matter!’, “Hands up, don’t shoot!’, and we even put a little twist into the ‘No justice, no peace’ by adding in ‘No racist police!’ afterwards,” Muhammad said. “Once we reached the Washington Lake Park, we walked in and stopped at the amphitheater. There we all kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds for George Floyd. From there, a couple of the coordinators and myself spoke as well as my brother, Zaki Muhammad, and one of the members of the Gloucester County NAACP chapter who happened to be Mrs. Loretta Winters daughter, the President of the chapter.”
After the speeches the crowd began walking again and finished throughout the park and headed back to Washington Township High School. Muhammad adores the feeling of taking action to bring about change. She feels that it is a great way to be heard and to make noise.
“I love the feeling of knowing that you are letting your voice be heard and that hopefully people will listen,” Muhammad said. “The best part in my opinion is when you are walking and doing your chants, and people come by and applaud you or put their right fist up in support of the movement. It just lets you know that you are not alone in fighting for justice and that feeling is truly amazing. If I could do it everyday, I would, just to feel that feeling.”
Protesting can be tiring, but it also brings change. It gets officers arrested, chokeholds and no-knock warrants banned. The people’s voice is strong and Muhammad knows that. She knows that protesting can make the biggest difference in every part of life to end not just systematic racism, but all racism.
“I want to see change within our towns. I want to see change within our school boards, I want to see change within our town boards, I need more representation for minorities and black people because if our own people are not going to bring justice for us, who will? Even more blacks in Law enforcement,” Muhammad said.
Blacks in law enforcement seems like a phrase that would not excite many African Americans. Some might see it as being on the side of the enemy, but to Muhammad it means understanding. When black officers show up as a friend and not an enemy, it shows that they understand what their community is trying to do. They see their message.
“One of the things that really touched my heart while protesting is on Saturday was seeing one of the black officers put his fist up in solidarity,” Muhammad said. “That just shows that even though you are a police officer and have to patrol to keep us safe, you understand our message and why we are fighting for justice.”
Generation Z has proven to be a ball of fire against police brutality. People of color and not of color have come together to incite change. They have protested hand in hand and people not of color have made an effort to educate themselves proving to be more accepting than past generations and Muhammad believes technology is what we have to thank for that.
“Our generation is the generation of change. We are the generation that will bring change and never look back,” Muhammad said. “One of the reasons why I think so is because of technology. We no longer have to listen to what our parents say or their opinions on certain topics because we can look on our phones or laptops at what is going on in current media and make our own opinions. Our generation knows what is right and what is wrong and we are not afraid to speak up and tell you. Although we are young, our voices are loud and will be heard. We are not afraid, and we demand justice.”
Muhammad does believe that not all cops are bad, but the good ones also join the “racial institution”. Her interaction with police on June 6 made her realize that not all cops are racists, disrespectful or murderers. She does believe, though, that when these good officers join the police force, they know the type of system they are joining.
“Growing up all you hear about are the cops that kill black people unjustly and do not get arrested for doing so. But after interacting with the police in Washington Township and how willingly they were to help us out, it made me realize that there are good cops out there, they just simply want to do their jobs by protecting us. Although, I still stand by the saying ‘ACAB’, which basically means that every single police officer is complicit to a system that actively devalues the lives of black people and people of color. Law enforcement is simply an inherently violent and racial institution and police officers know this before becoming one,” Muhammad said.
People of all races coming together is what made Muhammad really happy. Seeing every race ban together to bring change for black people is something truly adoring for Muhammad. She knows that they see it too and that her community is not alone in fighting against violence against her people.
“One of the things I touched on when I spoke in front of the crowd at the protest was how I saw faces of all different colors. It lets us know that we are not alone in fighting and that everyone wants justice,” Muhammad said. “I am sure we are all tired of hearing the stories about police officers killing black people, and the more voices we have, the more people are going to
hear what we have to say. People all across the world are fighting this fight with us. It is literally the world against racists right now which is amazing and I hope through all of these voices, change will come and justice will be served.”
The best part of the protests for Muhammad was hearing Mrs.Tiffany speak. She spoke about how she has to talk to her 12-year-old son about how to protect himself from police brutality. Tiffany inevitably got emotional and that touched Muhammad.
“I started to think about how all of these situations could have been my brother or my father or even myself,” Muhammad said. “Her speech was very emotional and touched the crowd in a certain way.”
After Tiffany’s speech they walked with a purpose. After they heard what she said and witnessed her emotion they realized that no one should have to feel like that or go through that mental battle as a mother, father, sibling or as a black person at all.
“Our voices were louder, our chants were louder, people who were not originally
there in the beginning came to join us,” Muhammad said. “We were all united as one fighting for the same fight: justice for blacks.”