The rally, which closed out an emotional week of protests citywide and across the nation, called on residents to speak out against police violence, bigotry and hate, while opening up a conversation of what it means to be black in Queens.
“While we share the same neighborhood, we do not have the same shared experience,” said Martha Ayon, who organized the event alongside activists from the Queens Coalition for Solidarity and the Queens Coordination Council.
“Being black in Queens does not exclude us from being killed like Sean Bell or being chased out of neighborhoods like Michael Griffith in Howard Beach,” she continued.
Ayon, a lifelong resident of Rego Park, recounted being followed in stores and pharmacies and being pulled over by police while looking for a parking spot late at night while growing up in a traditionally white area.
“Having a degree, living in a co-op and having a car doesn’t shield me from discrimination,” she said.
A roster of speakers, including City Council members Adrienne Adams and Donovan Richards, activists, artists, faith leaders and representatives from community organizations, discussed tangible actions residents can take to influence change.
This includes seeking out local black-owned businesses, maintaining a vocal stance against racist speech and actions as allies within non-black communities, and pushing elected officials to pass a slate of police reforms proposed by the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in the wake of George Floyd’s death.