CALLICOON, NY — “A Peaceful Gathering To Show Support And Solidarity, Sunday, June 7th at 2pm.” Surprise is what I felt after I saw this flyer on the Facebook group page Living in …
CALLICOON, NY — “A Peaceful Gathering To Show Support And Solidarity, Sunday, June 7th at 2pm.” Surprise is what I felt after I saw this flyer on the Facebook group page Living in Callicoon. My first thought, I’ve lived in this town for over 30 years, and I would bet most Callicoon natives and locals from the surrounding towns had not planned this event nor would they be at this protest. My second thought, I was curious as to how many Black people would be in attendance, but I had no desire to be part of the protest.
As I read the Facebook posts, under the flyer, a few people on the internet seemed to be upset that Callicoon was having a Black Lives Matter protest while the Tractor Parade had been canceled. However, these two different events had not been organized by the same group. As I read further, my attention was drawn to someone’s post asking why a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest was needed in Callicoon. Then the person on the internet wrote, “Like anyone in Callicoon is racist.” The post continued with a murmur of sarcasm warning readers not to burn down any buildings or loot the town.
There were a few posts that defended the stance as to why a Black Lives Matter protest was needed in Callicoon. As I continued to read, another man’s post caught my attention as it echoed some of the above displeasures—no tractor parade, why a BLM protest—that ended with one simple word of annoyance: stupid. However, the man did clarify how he was not calling any of the protest’s organizers stupid, just the idea of having a BLM protest in Callicoon: stupid.
What annoyed me most the written words, “Like anyone in Callicoon is racist.” Once again, I realized people really don’t get what racism is, even when they are engaging in it.
I don’t usually like to talk as to whether BLM in upstate New York or the United States of America in general, later for Callicoon as far as whether racism exits.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 2020: George Floyd died because some cop’s knee was pressed against his neck as he laid on the ground struggling to breathe.
Callicoon, New York 1970, The Youth Center: When Black people came to the pool, all the white people got out. Cochecton in the 70s and 80s, the ground disturbed by tire marks, signs knocked down and eggs thrown at a Temple where Black people attended. Long Eddy on several occasions, cars and trucks drive by with white men inside, shooting their shotguns and making sure their bullets rang loud in the air. Each shot vibrating a message to that community of Black property owners: “You’re not welcome here!” 1976 in Callicoon at the local grocery store, a mother of two goes inside; nearby, a little girl around six years old points at the Black mother when she sees her shopping and says, “Look, daddy. There’s a N****r.” Daddy and his friend proudly pat the child on the back and laugh, “Yeah honey, I see.”
As I push those old shocking memories out of my mind, I close my Facebook page. As a young adult, I used to tag name these places and sneering faces that seemed to be full of unkindness and hate, borderline KKK members who just stopped wearing their white hoods. This was the North in the 70s: People of all ages, gender and sizes were proud for you to see their mocking faces as they called you—as society says today, and I mimic the phrase slowly—The N Word.
As fate would have it, the next day, life challenged me once again. Dawn Hyde, business owner of River Family Wellness, asked me if I would read a poem or speak at the protest. I called a few friends of mine for advice and realized how many African American people I knew who wanted no part of this event; they didn’t believe anything or anyone would change. A BLM protest in Callicoon seemed very interesting and different for this town, but skepticism still reigned. And I still struggled as to whether I’d speak on Sunday at the protest or what I’d say.
Stayed tuned for part two, coming soon.
Z.A. Kohola has worked as an educator in different capacities for more than twenty years. She is a creative artist and a writer of all genres. For her, the need for creative expression is like breathing air.