Muhlenberg basketball coach, Tyrone Nesby, invited the community to stand with him on Penn Street Bridge Monday afternoon, all to raise awareness about systemic racism in the United States.
Before the protest on the bridge, Nesby invited several community leaders to talk speak in a presentation held under the bridge in the Reading Area Community College parking lot.
“I look before you and see my brothers and sisters” said local resident, Javar Colon. “As I stand before you today, I am proud to be a Berks County citizen. Our county has continually showed signs of unification, everyday since this tragedy has occurred. I cannot be more proud to stand with you all. We will not fatigue in our fight for unity within our communities.”
“That’s the passion and purpose our young people bring to the table” said Michael Toledo, President and CEO of the Centro Hispano.
“We have to mobilize, because our young people are going to lead this charge forward, and we have to be here to support them, and show them the love that they need, correction and guidance they need” said Toledo.
Local educator, Haniff Skeete, says he went back to school at the age of 40 to get his certification in elementary education. “When I was in college I would look around the class room for other students like me. I didn’t see any other black students” Skeete said.
“Then I went on to grad school. No other black students, not even Hispanic students. That’s when I realized in the educational system there is something wrong. I realized there was a lack of people of color.”
Skeete goes on to point out that the current teaching force is currently 80% white females. “Teachers of color represent 18% of educators, and black males represent just 2%” said Skeete. “Kids need to see someone they identify within the system.”
Following several speakers, Nesby addressed the crowd, telling them how he encourages his students to speak up. “I tell my players to speak up” said Nesby.
“As you heard these speakers today, we need a voice right now. When we leave here today, we need you to be our voice, which means when you go to work, at home, or at the stores, and you see someone crossing the line, please call them out and let them know we’re not going to have it.”
In closing, Nesby assured the crowd that this would not be the only ‘peaceful stand’ on the Penn Street bridge, and that he is planning to host 3-4 more in the coming weeks.
After the presentation under the bridge, Nesby lead the crowd onto the bridge. Hundreds of people spread out across the Penn Street bridge waiving signs, shouting Black Lives Matter.