Protest calls for friendship between races
BUZZARDS BAY — The Bourne/Wareham Race Amity Committee held a small, socially-distanced demonstration in the park on Main Street in Buzzards Bay on Sunday to spread their message of justice and friendship.
The committee was first formed in the 1990s after the beating of Rodney King, a black man in Los Angeles, by the Los Angeles Police Department.
This weekend, the group was protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, who was killed by a police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while he was handcuffed and in custody.
The committee’s work is based on love and unity, which leader Wandra Harmsen, one of the group’s leaders, said is the basis of unlearning and ending racism.
“We really believe that race amity leads to race unity,” Harmsen said. “Racism is really like a spiritual disease… We are all one. Whatever happens to one affects all.”
Joanne Outchcunis, a Wareham member, said that she hopes people in the community are paying attention to the events taking place across the country, and taking steps towards amity.
“We’re one humanity,” Outchcunis said, explaining that friendships are the key to moving forward. “We need friendship between the races, not division.”
Pastor Dan Bernier of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wareham was also at the protest, and said his church had been working with the committee before the pandemic disrupted regular services.
“This is all about basic things like respect and dignity,” Bernier said, noting that the group’s mission aligns with what he preaches each week in church. “Love and compassion are for everybody.”
Jack Harmsen noted that the protest was not only in response to the death of George Floyd, but to the many instances of police brutality throughout history.
“We just felt that we needed to do something because the problem has persisted for so long,” Harmsen said. He added that white people, in particular, have a responsibility to educate themselves about race and step up to work alongside people of color. Without real change, the violence and suffering will only repeat.
“I hope people see that it’s not about background or culture, it’s about human beings. It’s a human rights issue: Our ability to live in peace,” said Aidan Alai, a protester from Falmouth.
Wandra Harmsen said that one of the group’s primary focuses is on education for people of all ages, from young children to adults. The group has worked with public schools in the past, and Race Amity Massachusetts recently sent a curriculum to every middle school in the state.
“Education is crucial to change hearts,” Harmsen said.
Outchcunis said that education is especially important because racism is “in the air we breathe from the time we’re born.”
Harmsen recommended a number of books and resources for those who want to learn more about racism throughout history and in the present:
-Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
-White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
-Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy
-Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
-A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Those interested in learning more about Race Amity can visit www.raceamity.org. Joanne Outchcunis can be contacted at 508-295-3499 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Wandra Harmsen can be contacted at 508-759-4041 or email@example.com.
The group will be celebrating Race Amity Day on June 14.