By JENNIFER DEMPSEY

Progress Editor

PAULDING – On Sunday, June 14, over 60 people gathered together on the courthouse lawn. Almost everyone was wearing a mask and quite a few were carrying signs.

The group gathered peacefully to talk about racial inequality and why it’s such a big deal in today’s society.

Even though information spread about the protest said that it was going to be peaceful, threats were still made to organizers.

“We had a lot of threats about this protest today. A lot of people were very unhappy. Saying it wasn’t needed in Paulding County. Saying not to do it; to stop or else,” said Andrea Schlueter, protest organizer.

“The most important thing is that we keep our foot on the gas. We keep talking and working together to make the changes we want to see in the world,” added Jazmine Smith, protest organizer.

After the organizers shared their inspiring words, the mic was handed over to anyone in the audience who had something they felt led to share.

One woman brave enough to take the mic talked about how her sons are bi-racial and when she sees the videos of police brutality towards black men, she pictures her sons. The crowd supported her as she shared her concerns and she was received with great love and respect.

Other people took turns speaking and Pastor DeWayne Richardson was the last to speak. He shared about his experiences being a black man in Paulding County and other areas of the country.

Richardson feels thankful and blessed that we live in a great county with nice people. “We are keepers of the light,” Richardson spoke to the crowd.

Afterwards, a small group of people stood on the corner of Jackson Street and Williams Street to hold signs to spread their message to vehicles driving by.

The overall tone of the event was very peaceful and up-lifting. It should also be noted that no law enforcement was present. Which is just further proof that there was no concern of violence or other issues.

Some people think that because our county lacks in diversity, with only a 1.2% black population, that we don’t have a racism problem. But the truth is, we do. Just the fact that the organizers were threatened because they wanted to hold a protest is proof that racism is alive here in our county.

We might not see burning crosses or very obvious signs of racism, but it’s here. It’s time to start listening to people when they talk about their encounters with racism. It’s time we take these concerns to heart and actually make a change. We need to get uncomfortable and stand up for what we know is right.

We cannot move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable.