More than 100 people crowded around the gazebo on the Natick Common Saturday afternoon to show solidarity against discrimination and comments made by President-elect Donald J. Trump, displaying handmade signs and shouting “Black lives matter!”
Béla Ghosh, an 18-year-old senior at Natick High School, addressed the crowd and offered instructions “for our white allies, for our Christian allies, for our male allies, and for our straight allies” in an impromptu speech to the audience.
“It’s time to get uncomfortable,” said Ghosh, founder and president of the InterFem student group at her high school. “To pretend like Trump caused racism is so ignorant. There has been racism in Natick for all 18 years of my existence. I’ve been uncomfortable for all 18 years of my existence.”
A week earlier, a town resident posted on Facebook photos of racist, slur-filled letters he received, referencing Trump’s victory and telling the Elm Street resident that “Natick has no tolerance for black people.” Danelle Wylder and her partner Judy Heithmar organized Saturday’s rally with a Facebook event, to show support for the resident and other members of the community experiencing discrimination. Police said they were investigating the letter incident as a possible hate crime.
Titi Scorzailo, a 15-year-old sophomore at Natick High School and member of its Celebrating Diversity Club and Committee, spoke about her experience as the daughter of Muslim immigrants.
“I worry about the safety of my friends every day. I worry about the safety of my family every day. And I worry about my own safety every day,” Scorzailo said. “I want to represent this school because I know so many students who don’t understand what’s going on, and I want to show them that the kid who sits next to them in science is struggling every day.”
Many young children were in the crowd, which some parents said was to show the next generation the importance of standing up against ignorance and hatred.
“I’m not used to putting my face out there and screaming ‘Black lives matter!’ but I think that it’s important that people who care about these issues not be afraid to stand up and open their mouths and open their doors,” said Meredith Cutler, a Natick resident who displayed a rainbow sign painted by her 6-year-old daughter. “Because clearly the racism is really embedded.”
Eleonora Tulaba, a friend of Cutler’s and also a Natick resident, brought her 4-month-old daughter and 5-year-old son to the rally, along with her husband. Even though it might seem like bigots were not “messing with me personally — they are, because they’re messing with my neighbors,” she said.
Members of the audience squinted against the sun as they listened to the speakers and held up signs: “HONK FOR PEACE,” “NO RACISM, FULL STOP,” “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
“If you look around, there are not a whole lot of people who look like me in this crowd,” said Alison Smith, 29, a black Natick resident who took the microphone at the gazebo with her 4-year-old daughter McKayla.
“I walk around with that, every single day,” said Smith. “Every single day. And the bigots in our community — I want them to feel that. I want them to feel ‘othered.’ I want them to know that they are the outliers, and not us.”
The crowd erupted into cheers and began a chant of “Black lives matter.”
“It’s time for white people specifically to educate themselves on the embedded racism in all of our structures,” said Tina Opie, a black Natick resident.
Someone called police on her son once when he was in Wellesley — “falsely, thank God, there were video cameras and evidence.” Her son was described as a “full-grown man,” she said.
Opie said her son was 11 years old at the time.
Opie and other speakers said rallies aren’t enough.
Communities must be vigilant in combating prejudice in their day-to-day actions, they said.
“We have got to move beyond balloons and signs and rallies, to getting to understand each other . . . and confronting the racism that is within many, many people,” Opie said.
Nicole Fleming can be reached at email@example.com.