Abe’s emotion got my attention the other day because of her soulful intensity on the subject of Black Lives Matter.
She marched in a recent “Teenagers Take Charge” Baton Rouge protest in which a couple of thousand people, mostly young folk, expressed their rage about the public execution by a white Minneapolis police officer of George Floyd, a black man.
“When I saw the video, I knew that I wanted to be there (at the protest) for him,” said Abe. “I had to be there.”
Abe’s last name is Kantrow, and she’s an 18-year-old middle-class white student headed to Louisiana State University in the fall. The recent University High grad is part of a stunning gumbo of races, ethnicities and age groups who have taken to the streets across America to protest Floyd’s death and to take powerful home-run swings against racism.
Colleen, outspoken and focused, was an organizer of the protest in which Abe felt compelled to take part.
Colleen is keenly aware of the power of protest against racism and its chance of bringing positive outcomes. Like famous filmmaker Ava DuVernay, don’t talk to her about how looters have sullied the efforts of the protests.
“If you’re angrier about what happened at a store and not at what happened to Floyd, then you’re missing the point,” Colleen said.
DuVernay, making that point to Oprah Winfrey recently, said, “It’s as if I was going to care about black people being murdered, ‘but that guy took those shoes, so I don’t know now.’ That’s how ridiculous it sounds to me.”
Colleen’s last name is Temple, as in daughter of Collis Temple Sr., the first black basketball player to suit up for LSU. The 17-year-old said she is in the protests for the long haul.
Colleen said watching Floyd die under the police officer’s knee rocked her.
“How could someone just be so cold-hearted? It was just heartbreaking,” she said.
Abe and Colleen are the faces of the Floyd protesters acknowledging and denouncing layers of racism and police brutality against people of color for hundreds of years. You see them in gigantic crowds in big cities like New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Atlanta. You see them in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Livingston Parish, and in rural communities, too — some where few, if any, blacks live.
Abe said she understands her role. She is white, middle-class and, as she put it, “privileged.” She said what happened to Floyd and many other blacks over the years “would never happen to me or my friends.”
She said her goal is to impress upon the white community that its members must yell, write and go on social media to change laws and attitudes that have stood on the necks of people of color for hundreds of years.
“I’m going to do whatever I can,” she said, knowing the work is risky for blacks but also could result in white backlash against her. Her response was simple: “I have no fear. … I just have to do what I have to do.”
In the meantime, she is contributing to a national fund to pay jail bonds for protesters. Heading to college in print journalism, Abe wants to challenge racism through her words.
For many whites, Abe said the video of Floyd’s death was a “wake-up call.”
“After watching that video and other attacks on black people, I’ve seen other white people change their views on the situation of black people,” she said.
That more white people like Abe are willing to protest is not lost on Colleen.
“It’s exciting because I know the black community can’t do this alone,” she said. “We need as much help as possible.”
Witnessing a peaceful protest she helped arrange prompted some self-discovery for Colleen: “I found out how willing I was to put myself on the line for something I believed in … and to get myself and others to work toward solving this problem.”
Colleen plans to start a nonprofit to help improve homes in low-income communities. And both Collen and Abe expect be in more protests.
“Oh, no, I am not one-and-done on this,” Colleen said.
Paraphrasing former President Barack Obama, I’m made hopeful by the wondrous expansion of diversity of people demanding change.
Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman, at email@example.com.