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Latyna M. Humphrey, middle, and Keon Singleton, right, spoke earlier Tuesday evening at the peaceful vigil before leading the march for unity held at Brookside Park West. 

ASHLAND -- At Tuesday night’s march for unity and peaceful vigil for victims of police brutality, Latyna M. Humphrey challenged the Ashland community to speak up against systemic racism.

The Columbus mother, author, political and lifestyle strategist encouraged the crowd of more than 150 gathered at Brookside Park West to take notice of and respond to the “uncomfortable situations” that black people may face in their workplaces and community. 

“When you see things that are uncomfortable to you, imagine how it feels to us ... We are family, and we need to stand together,” Humphrey said. 

She motioned towards a white woman near the front of the audience. 

“I may not look like you, but you’re my sister,” she said. 

Then she directed her eyes towards a white man nearby. 

“I may not look like you, sir, but you’re my uncle,” she said. 

She cast her gaze in the opposite direction and appeared to lock eyes with yet another individual. 

“You could be my cousin,” Humphrey said. 

She urged people to say something when they encounter racism. The black community is resilient, she continued, but to make a more immediate impact, it will take a family: One where color doesn’t determine relationships and one where everyone stands in solidarity against systemic racism.

“When you’re at the grocery store and you see racism and you see injustice, I ask that you speak up. When you’re walking down the street with your dog and you see something that ain’t right, we ask that you speak up,” Humphrey said. “When you go to work and you see injustice, speak up. 

“I’ll take it a step further and say, when you look at your board of directors, and you don’t see a person of color speak up. We need you.”  

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Latyna M. Humphrey, center, addresses the crowd at Brookside Park West Tuesday. 

Humphrey was one of multiple speakers at the Tuesday evening event. The peaceful vigil began just after 7 p.m. with a prayer and period of silence led by Rev. Wilson Arimi.

He asked the crowd to kneel for a short period in remembrance of George Floyd, who died Memorial Day after a white police officer knelt his neck for more than eight minutes. 

All Minneapolis officers involved in Floyd's death have been fired and charged in the killing. Derek Chauvin, 46, is charged with second-degree murder. The other three -- J. Alexander Kueng, 26, Thomas Lane, 37, and Tou Thao -- 34, are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

As the group of Ashland protesters stood up following the eight minutes of silence, Arimi recognized the pain they felt in their knees. 

“That knee was on someone else’s neck,” Arimi said. 

Dr. Peter Slade led the group in singing “Lean on Me” before Humphrey and Ashland University student Keon Singleton addressed the crowd. 

Singleton has become the face of local protests after he began protesting alone last Thursday along Ashland’s Main Street. A small group joined him before he concluded Thursday afternoon, and as he continued to protest daily in downtown Ashland, crowds grew to more than 100 over the weekend. 

Singleton has said protests will continue daily from 1 to 3 p.m. until justice is served — not only for Floyd, but for every black person who experienced police brutality.

Additional protests are planned from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 11 and Friday, June 12 to accommodate for those who may not be able to attend during the earlier hours. 

“We’re not going to stop until we see a revolution,” Singleton said. 

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Earlier when addressing the crowd, he pondered why people wouldn’t want to protest against racism and police brutality. 

“The majority of people who do not support this protest are scared to lose their jobs, or they are scared to not be accepted by their friends,” he said. “What you’re telling me is, you’d rather see your brother or your sister -- no matter the color -- die to please your racist friends or your organization or this system.  

“This system has brainwashed good white people into doing unethical things.” 

He urged people to push aside their own discomfort and concerns of “materialistic things” to protest injustice. 

“All lives do matter, but black lives are at stake, man,” he said. “Make it make sense. If all lives mattered, black lives would not be at stake.”

Humphrey asked the crowd to challenge other people’s perceptions. It’d be easier to ignore racist people, she admitted, but she instead told the group to attempt speaking with people who show racist tendencies. 

“I can speak all across the country, but they may not hear me, they may not hear what I have to say, but you sis, they might listen to you,” she said. “You can make it make sense more than I can make  it make sense. You can say something that’s not even in my vocabulary, something that’s not in my way of thinking.” 

To those who think racism doesn’t exist within their organizations, workplaces, communities, she said to look again. 

She sees the primary problem as something deeper than police brutality, which she says is one outcome of systemic racism.

“I’m telling you, there’s some systemic racism at your jobs … and churches too. It’s everywhere. And if we don’t start calling things like it is, then it will never change,” Humphrey said. 

The event ended with a march around the park. The group held signs and chanted: “We are family.”

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