Community

New Albany, Indiana hosted a morning of peaceful protest, togetherness and education Saturday. The day included multiple, separately-organized events that ultimately converged.

It kicked off with families creating chalk art on the city’s sidewalks and storefronts listing the names of those who have lost their lives in encounters with police, including Louisville’s Breonna Taylor and David McAtee and Jeffersonville’s Malcolm Williams. What followed was a march unlike anything city leaders said they have seen in their lifetimes, with hundreds of protesters hitting the streets.

Organizer Charles Goodman and a team of around 10 people were inspired by recent protests across the country, including those that have taken place in nearby Ohio River communities. He was honored to be a part of something he considers historic for the city.

It’s Goodman’s hope that the march can be a jumping off point for residents to rally together for change.

“A lot of conversations haven’t been started,” he said. “They haven’t really been substantial. Just to get the community, the police and everyone involved and engaged, it points us in the right direction.”

Fellow organizer Maurice Ball emceed for a majority of the day, leading protesters through the city grid. Along the way, he pointed out some of its landmarks, including Town Clock Church, which played a significant role in the Underground Railroad.

Ball said that such history means the city and its population have been crying out for change for years. Picking up on Goodman’s point, he noted the importance of kick-starting conversations about race and the injustices that occur because of how one looks.

“If you don’t have the conversation, then what you’re going to do is base how you see me off of some implicit bias that could have been ingrained as a child,” Ball said. “To be able to have something like this to spark a conversation that we can sit down and say, ‘Let’s talk about these differences that separate us, and let’s come up with a solution so that we can actually be a better community.’ But if the conversation’s never started, change can never happen.”

New Albany native Shayna Nguyen’s family has experienced those injustices firsthand from generation to generation. Nguyen’s husband, Lock, grew up as one of the city’s few people of Vietnamese descent. Her mother and grandmother were just the third black family to live in the white section of the city’s historically heavily-segregated public housing system, known as “white court” and “black court.”

Nguyen knows that older generations still struggle with the hurt they’ve carried over the years, and said she hopes hers can be the one to finally institute systematic change.

“[This march] means everything,” she said. “We need change, and everyone coming together in this way to force change is a beautiful, beautiful thing. And I hope we succeed.”

The New Albany Police Department escorted the group throughout the city, with the chief of police and other officers marching alongside protesters. Residents and business owners along the route handed out snacks and water to the marchers

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.