By Hannah Pridemore
Black Lives Matter. Plain and simple. They always have and they always will. The marches and demonstrations held over this summer, in the middle of a pandemic no less, emphasized just how much still has to change in this country as we strive for racial equality. It’s easy to be a performative armchair activist. Just post a little black square on your Instagram, repost cute infographics to your story, and call it a day. While it’s great to spread awareness and information, we have moved beyond this form of activism. Black people are still dying every single day, and the information posted on an Insta story isn’t going to stop it from happening anytime soon. So, what’s the next step? Keshawn Mellon, an Ohio University senior who you might have seen in some theatre performances these past four years, organized the Athens Black Lives Matter march this semester, and he’s offered some advice on how to start a BLM movement in your area.
Hannah Pridemore: What is your personal history with the Black Lives Matter movement?
Keshawn Mellon: My personal history with BLM stretches back into my junior year of high school, when I really started to become aware of the issues within our country and began making art about it. The summer of my junior year, I made an original performance piece about BLM which I think launched me into my passion about using performance art to discuss BLM. This continued into my senior year and eventually into college, where I now regularly make art about BLM, assist in activism related to it, and educate others about it.
HP: What made you want to host one in Athens?
KM: I wanted to host one in Athens because we are in a community that’s mixed with students, faculty, and families. People view Athens as a safe haven from these political movements when it isn’t. Black students and members of this community are putting in so much work to make this area safe and comfortable for Black people, so it’s unfair to view this place as one that is a “safe haven” from it all, because for those whose livelihood is affected, it isn’t. Something has to be done about that and it needs to be done by more than just Black people.
HP: What did you have to do to organize it?
KM: Organizing it was fairly simple. We had to figure out the date and time, reach out to people, then organize the advertisement of it so that it flooded social media. After that, it was about collaborating with people who wanted to help, personally inviting people, and taking charge on the day of the event.
HP: Who all was involved?
KM: Avery Pope [also an Ohio University senior] and I were the ones who organized it. Although people reached out to provide resources and donate, Avery and I did everything for the protest. That includes making the poster, the FB event, and the social media flood on Instagram and Twitter.
HP: Would you do another one?
KM: It truly depends. If I feel capable, then sure. But the stress it puts on me is unmeasurable and I would prefer not to because it isn’t healthy. I’m more than willing to do one but only if I’m 1) capable to mentally/physically/emotionally and 2) if the time is right.
HP: Any future plans for march organizations?
KM: Not at the moment. Who knows what the future holds and until I feel like the pressure is on, I don’t plan on it. However, when my community needs me, I’ll be there to help.
HP: What do you think is the best way to get communities involved and to spread the word?
KM: I think you have to do community outreach. Meet people where they are. Go into their neighborhoods. Go to their events. Talk with them. Invite them out. Listen to them. You have to ask what they need and find a way to provide it. Getting a community involved is to make them important. A community won’t feel that way if there isn’t someone putting 100% effort into it all. The simplest way to bring people together is to break bread with them.
This topic is never easy to discuss, but it must be done. Organize with friends, post about it on social media, and get out in the streets and march. Exercise your rights to fight for our freedoms. All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.