In the late afternoon of June 5, nearly three hundred plus Plumas County residents slowly gathered at Dame Shirley Plaza in Quincy, CA for a local protest in support of Black Lives Matter.
The protest was organized by local high school students and adult residents in solidarity with national protests.
TyAnna Farmer, a senior at Plumas Charter School, and one of the organizers read a poem she wrote at the event called “White Washed.”
The line that stood out to me is “Surrounded in a sea of white, all that can be seen is my black. Seas of white, slowly rising.” That–as a Chicana with two brown kids has often been the experience of our family in Plumas County. I can only imagine what it is to be African American here. When we moved here in 2002, my husband at the time and I were pregnant with our son. I checked the census data then and there was something like only 200 “Hispanics” (our family doesn’t use that word) in the whole county of 20,000. I’ve heard things that would make your head spin. Even though I couldn’t make the protest, (my kid was graduating at the same time), I’m so glad 300 residents of the county did.
“We are here today to peacefully protest the racial injustice and blatant racism throughout the nation,” began a speech by Tristan McMichael, a youth organizer and Quincy High School senior.
He went on to discuss June being LGBTQ Pride month and how on May 27 just two days after Floyd’s murder at the hands of cops, an African American trans man named Tony McDade was also killed by police in that state—highlighting that being in both demographics statistically means a higher rate of police (and other) brutality.
“It is not just Policing standards that need to change, we need to change American society itself. This is why we call social reform movements social reform movements,” said McMichael.
Some residents have recently been galvanized by racist comments made by some community members in facebook groups, which furthered some residents into wanting to come out publicly in favor of Black Lives Matter to demonstrate to local people of color that white community members stand with them. There is now a group called Exposing Racism and Oppression in Plumas County on facebook, which hosted the flyer and information for the event. It’s been great to connect with people who are also seeing that some of the language and actions of our neighbors are abhorrent. (If you want to see some of Plumas County’s vitriolic ‘bless their hearts’ cases, check out “Plumas Concerned Citizens” on facebook or “Plumas Rants and Raves”–both groups are overflowing with All Lives Matter, Karen-esque talking points, get off my privileged white lawn comments–and every once in awhile something actually nice).”
By all accounts of those who attended the event, it was a peaceful protest aimed at solidarity. Most people wore masks with respect to COVID19 CDC guidelines. Not all practiced social distancing of six feet apart (because 300 people in Dame Shirley Plaza–wow!).
On Fridays on that same corner the Plumas Democrats have staged protests for years that draws pretty much the same 10 people or less. This size crowd we rarely see. In fact the last time people came out like this was for Quincy’s first PRIDE event in September 2019.
“This was such a powerful message for me personally growing up here, and thinking that many people here would not support people of minorities groups, and today that changed. So many people showed their faces and had so many kind messages and experiences to share,” said Farmer. “ Especially a big thank you to all of my teachers who came, you have no idea how much it meant to me to see you guys their supporting us,” she wrote on her fb page.
I’m sure the students were as excited as I was to hear and see so many of their teachers from the local high schools and Feather River College there too.
The African American population in Plumas County is 192 people according to census stats or just below one percent of the population. The county population is 20,000. This IS a big deal.
A similar event is being planned by Sierra county locals on June 13 in Loyalton in Sierra County. The old guard in Sierra County already assumes it must be “outside agitators” –mostly because that guard rarely bothers to get to know who lives here if they aren’t white or working for them.
It’s a wonderful and hopeful thing to see so many students and neighbors out marching for Black Lives Matter. The young people remind me of what I’ve thought as a mother these last 17 years: that this up and coming generation is quite amazing in their own way. When I think of what was taboo or impossible when I was a teen and how things are now I truly am amazed and grateful to live in such a time and place where the young are active.
(Photos submitted by TyAnna Farmer.)