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Protesters march to bring awareness to systemic racism in Mequon

Posted at 7:52 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 20:52:38-04

MEQUON — More than 100 people marched the streets of Mequon on Saturday to make their voices heard on the racial injustice in the city. It comes days after Homestead High School students posted a controversial video on social media mocking the death of George Floyd.

As soon as the rain let up, the chanting began with protesters making their voices heard up and down Mequon Road for three miles all the way to the Mequon Public Market.

Leading the march was Jessica Key, a woman of color, who grew up in Mequon and is now raising her three kids there.

She experienced racism firsthand as a student in the school district, and she said at times was harassed by police.

“A lot of times when I looked around I didn’t see anybody that looked like me. I was usually the diversity in the classrooms,” Key said. “As a child I felt like I wasn’t allowed to fail, and when I did fail that I wasn’t given an opportunity to meet the challenge and rise to the occasion.”

Now Key is worried for kids.

“There’s been comments about their hair from other students you know when they’re riding the bus,” Key said.

It’s why Key decided to hold a protest in the city to bring awareness to systemic issues in the city.

“Just felt like it was really important to let people know that racism, even though it might not be apparent at times, it might be overt, it still exists,” Key said.

In fact, earlier this week a student at Homestead High School posted a video on social media. It shows young men mocking the death of George Floyd. On Friday, Cole Elsbree, one of the students, issued an apology.

“What I did was disgusting and wrong and terrible, and no one is more disappointed than I am in myself,” Elsbree said.

While some people are calling for the students’ expulsion, Key doesn’t feel that’s the answer.

“I think they should have to face their peers and I think they should live through that experience and hopefully they learn from it,” Key said.

Braylin Smith is a current senior.

“He’s capable of knowing what the issues are going on in America right now and it shouldn’t be a question why he posted it,” Smith said.

She said cultural insensitivity remains a problem, and that change is needed.

“If there’s no change I mean, will these black students at Homestead feel accepted?” Smith said.

“It doesn’t take a person of color to see that our classes are 90 percent white kids,” alumna, Dana Fretty said at the rally. “We need to make sure that every student, every single student in our community and in our district feel safe and comfortable speaking their mind in their place where they’re supposed to learn.”

They want to send a message, one that Key hopes will stick with her kids in the years to come.

“I want them to look back on this in history and know what their mother did,” Key said.

Key said she’s not done just yet. She’s working with the district to put up murals in the community to keep the movement alive. There is also a petition going around calling for social justice improvements in the school district.

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