When protesters began organizing the first demonstrations in Chicago after the police killing of George Floyd on May 25th in Minneapolis, Barrington resident, Anya Sastry hoped to head to the city to take part. Due to concerns about the risk of COVID in large crowds, the recent high school graduate decided to stay home. Instead of joining the city protests that later escalated to violence, Anya chose to protest in Barrington as a party of one.
You may have seen Anya, a graduate of both Grove Elementary and Station Middle Schools, standing alone with a simple sign reading “Black Lives Matter” at Barrington’s Memorial Park on Hough Street last Saturday. The soon-to-be college freshman will be studying international relations, legal studies and business at Tulane University starting this fall. On Instagram, Anya describes herself as an intersectional activist and organizer seeking to bring power to the people. Also an advocate for climate change, she hopes to one day work in government and national level politics.
When Anya noticed two other Barrington teens speaking out on social media about police brutality, justice and equality in our nation, she joined them to expand her solo demonstration here in Barrington. The Black Lives Matter Protest planned for Saturday from 1-3 at Citizens Park is the result of their quick collaboration. I spoke with Anya to learn more about their mission.
What are your goals for this protest?
Our goal is to amplify black voices because they are at the forefront of this movement. There will be five community speakers at this protest, all are black individuals who have the perspective of being black in America. They have the perspective of experiencing injustice and racism in this country where no other group has been as oppressed as they have been. We’re fighting for equality, for their rights and civil liberties so I think it’s important to have their voices be front and center. That allows non black people of color and white members of the community to act as allies and support them during this time.
Why do you feel this is important, especially in Barrington?
After centuries of oppression and injustice we want to make sure black voices are being heard to give Barrington, a predominantly white community, a better sense of what black people are experiencing. With this protest we are standing united against a system in this country that has encouraged and supported racism against a certain group of people. By protesting we are working to disempower that system that has hurt so many people. I think it’s time for Barrington to be part of the solution by amplifying black voices and demanding policy change within the community as a path toward greater equality and justice.
What changes do you believe are necessary locally?
Defunding police budgets locally and nationally is one way to actively be part of the solution. One of the most important things this movement across the nation is trying to focus on is uplifting community groups and resources other than law enforcement. Greater support for mental health resources and social workers who can intervene in difficult situations alongside police is a solution many people are pushing for.
Also, because Barrington is a predominantly white community, individuals here have a degree of privilege which may be used to support real change. This protest is about connecting people and providing a sense of awareness, education and resources that the community can later act on.
How do you respond to concerns about safety in light of recent violence during peaceful protests?
We’ve had a lot of people express concern about violence, looting, rioting at our peaceful protest and the only thing we can say in response is that this is going to be a nonviolent demonstration. Anyone who comes in to try to act in a violent manner is not affiliated with the protest. We have measures in place in case anything happens but we don’t expect anything to go wrong.
The two Barrington High School students working alongside Anya to plan Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest are 2020 BHS graduate, Zoe Zakson and incoming BHS junior, Abigail Bergan.
Abigail emphasizes the protest will be a nonviolent call for Barrington to take action.
“As a predominantly white community, I know Barrington can feel somewhat insulated from injustices against people of color and issues like police brutality because that sort of thing doesn’t happen here. With the level of financial stability in our community we have the means to advocate for those who don’t enjoy the same privilege. We believe it’s important to show our support for people of color in Barrington and not be a bystander in this key time of national change.”
Originally planned for Memorial Park, organizers moved the rally to Citizens Park to accomodate the growing crowd expected and concerns about allowing space for social distancing. Earlier this week the Village of Barrington issued a statement saying the Barrington Police Department is fully prepared for the protest and has put robust plans in place to monitor the event and to ensure that the rally remains peaceful at all times.
Over 220 people from Barrington and surrounding communities have confirmed they’ll be attending the protest which is happening in the lawn in front of the Jewel Tea Pavilion at Citizens Park from 1-3 PM on Saturday, June 6th. The protest will begin with introductions before five community speakers will take the stage followed by a moment of silence, calls for justice, information about policy change, ways to support the cause and closing remarks. Saturday’s speakers include:
- Reverend Dr. Zina Jacque, Pastor, Community Church of Barrington
- Student Emily Nakiganda
- Community member Orlando Ceaser
- Barrington 220 School District Resource Officer, Hakeem Smith
- Student Dominique Duval
Organizers recommend you walk or bike to the protest if you live close enough to leave parking open for those needing to drive. They ask they everyone be courteous of neighboring subdivisions and nearby businesses where parking is not allowed. Also, don’t forget there are parking lots on both sides of the park and the Barrington Area Library says attendees are welcome to park in their lot as well.
One of the community leaders planning to speak at the protest is Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque, Pastor at Community Church of Barrington. Here’s why Pastor Zina says she’s honored to have been asked to participate…
“The organizers of Saturday’s protest are brave and courageous young people. The instruction they gave me was that this protest is not just about acknowledging the state of our nation but about looking forward and thinking about the change that is required. Change in our nation has most often arisen out of our young. I believe this is another example of that and I am encouraged.
My goal is to acknowledge where we are and move into another way of being because the way we are now is not working, nationwide, not just in Barrington. We live in a nation where there are gross inequities and disparities. They have been uncovered most recently by the COVID pandemic, with data suggesting a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. There is nothing about this pandemic I think of as a gift but being awakened about how disparate the lives living in the same nation are is important. America has made a single promise to her residents of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That promise is full for some and not for others.
The inequity in our nation is everywhere and there are no regions that are unaffected by other regions. The poverty in Chicago requires higher insurance rates on our cars. The lack of healthcare throughout the state means that my healthcare is going to be more expensive. If we lived in a more equitable environment, the blessings of our nation would be shared. I’m going to be better off because everyone is safer and has everything they need to prosper.
I believe our youth, the organizers of this protest, hold the key to disturbing the comfort of those who are already in power. That is, in part, how this change will happen. It’s not on them. But they have taken up the call to demand alertness on the part of their elders because I think they want a different world. They’re not satisfied with the world we are handing them, an Earth that is being pillaged, and that’s the kindest word I can use, and an economic system that is set to benefit a portion of the nation and not the rest. They recognize many are not in a place to flourish so they are demanding that their elders join them in repairing what we and generations prior to them broke. I’m hopeful that, through them and with their energy, we can all be called to be part of paving a better path forward.”