‘Shine a light’: Group stages peaceful march in Seaford

Several hundred head down Middleford Road in the peaceful march geared to bring awareness and support for social justice. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

SEAFORD — Several hundred marchers walked a few streets in Seaford Sunday in peaceful protest, calling for the end to social racism and justice for George Floyd, the black man whose death May 25 at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer has sparked violence, looting and destruction in cities nationwide.

“Social injustice, we have seen that nationally but also in our local communities. It’s just to bring awareness in a social, peaceful environment,” said community activist Janet Watson, organizer of the march. “It’s just to unite everyone, not only black and white but to unite all of us. As my shirt says; this is our theme and our anthem for today: United We Stand … Divided We Fail. If we do not stand together, we will fail together.”

“My hope today is to bring awareness to the injustice that is going on across America,” said Ellendale resident Crystal Johnson. “We see it. We feel it. And it was something about the recent one that just really triggered and set everything on fire. Even though it didn’t happen in our state it has happened in every state.”

With police presence, the Seaford march procession began just before noon at Soroptimist Park, covered several blocks to Gateway Park and returned to the park on Middleford Road.

“Throughout this entire demonstration … we just really want to shine a light on the social injustice that is being seen, and have a voice and say, ‘Hey, we see this. We want to do something,’” Ms. Watson said. “We don’t want to see any rioting, any looting. That is not going to bring any change. Burning the police station down, that is not going to bring about the social change that we need in America today.”

Among several speakers prior to the march, Seaford Police Chief Marshall Craft Jr. echoed Ms. Watson’s hopes for the mission of the march, saying it could serve as “a model for the entire nation to follow. I am sure you are aware of everything that is happening around the country, around our own state here recently. That is not Seaford.”

Marchers carry a variety of signs, some calling for the end of police brutality.

Ms. Watson said the march was “of course, inclusive of George Floyd, but so many others … young black men who lost their lives to social injustice and racism, that it is still so relevant and prevalent in America. Communication and togetherness is the only way we are really going to combat this social injustice.”

“And I think particularly more so this just resonated with me because I have a 16-year-old son, who is now getting his driver’s license. I can teach him how to be a good student, how to be a good steward. I can teach him geometry and astronomy … but I can’t teach him how to be a black man in America,” said Ms. Watson.

“That was my concern, that being black in America is different than being white in America. We have to recognize those differences. I need my young man, my grandson, all the young men, all the mothers here today representing their men, their sons … most importantly how to stay alive as a young black man in America, because we are almost becoming an endangered species.”

Seaford resident Beth Kopicki, among the white people who marched, said her motivation was to support “my brothers and sisters” who have endured “centuries of structural racism in our country. And over the past weeks, the murders that happened. I just want to show my support and raise awareness.”

Ms. Johnson was accompanied by her three daughters and son.

“We have to do something. We have to take a stand,” said Ms. Johnson. “We have to show that our voice matters, our life matters. My son wears hoodies. My son’s hoodie is not a threat. I have to have conversations with him, ‘Son, take your hoodie off before you go into the store. Or don’t do this.’ He is getting to the age where I am afraid for him. And I should not have to be afraid for my son to do normal teenage things.”

City of Seaford Police Chief Marshall Craft Jr. addresses the large gathering at Soroptimist Park Sunday prior to the protest march. In back at left is Janet Watson, a key organizer of the peaceful march that featured several hundred participants..

Speaking for those who are black, Ms. Johnson said “we can’t make it happen. We can protest and we can say our lives matter, and march and do so many things. But it is going to take (white) people — no offense, who look like you — to talk to the people in your circle who look like you to make a difference.”

The march had a clergy presence, including Pastor Mason McGill of Kingdom Empowerment Christian Church in Seaford.

“The worst thing that you can do is match somebody else’s ideocracy by going down to their level,” said Pastor McGill.

In his prayer, he asked God that “our voice be heard without rioting, without glass broken, without a building burned” and that “we use our voice now, not our hands, not throwing rocks and stones, not striking matches, but we’ll use our voices and our votes.”

Organizers on Friday received permission from the city to stage the march.

Among the participants in Sunday’s march in Seaford were, from left, Crystal Johnson of Ellendale and daughters Harmony Phillips, Vy Johnson and India Johnson.

Ms. Watson acknowledged the support from the city, Chief Craft and police department and Seaford Mayor David Genshaw for being “so supportive with me putting this together. Initially I said it was going to be just 20 people; just my family, my son’s basketball team and his baseball team. I think everyone feels so passionate about what is going on, that I think we have probably gone from 20 people to probably several hundred people.

“I am a community activist who saw a need to pull our community together, to do something positively,” Ms. Watson said. “The main outcome that I want to see from this demonstration is to show not only Seaford, not only our neighboring communities, but also the world that we can come together, and we can do it in a peaceful way.”

Saturday, Rev. Dr. Christopher Alan Bullock, founder and pastor of the large Canaan Baptist Church in Wilmington, called for a statewide coalition of Delaware faith leaders to pray and denounce the violence spreading in Wilmington and throughout the nation arising from the “needless tragic death” of George Floyd.

“All denominations, faiths and races need to come together this Sunday and daily and pray that the peace of God would restore our local and national communities in this time of great anger and needless violence,” Rev. Bullock said. “Our nation is painfully in despair. Over one hundred thousand Americans have perished due to Covid-19. Another 41 million are unemployed. Our nation is restless about the unfortunate death of George Floyd and others, at the hands of police. Peaceful protest and demonstrations have their place, but the ugliness of looting, anarchy and lawlessness is never acceptable.

“We all need to be praying daily for God’s wisdom for Governor John Carney and his advisors as they try to navigate this terrible time locally and in our nation. We must not forget either those who are protesting with such hurt and anger,” Rev. Bullock concluded.