Frustrated with sitting on the sidelines of racial justice protests due to COVID-19 concerns, Cheryl Best partnered with local activists to organize an event so that those in high-risk groups can show their support of the BLM movement
When Black Lives Matter protests erupted in Columbus and across the country this past spring and summer in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, 72-year-old Cheryl Best found herself similarly angered by the issues of racism being raised by protesters in the streets.
“I've been a proponent of civil rights since my college days,” said Best, a resident of North Side neighborhood Salem Village. “So I spent a lot of time screaming at my television set and being angry and upset with law enforcement in our city and in many others.”
But Best was also frustrated that she couldn’t get out and march in solidarity with the protesters. "I wanted to be on the front lines very, very badly. … I felt that that was my place,” she said. “But because of the COVID, I just couldn't take the risk. I'm in a high-risk group for becoming severely ill.”
Best also knew other seniors were struggling to find ways to safely show their support for Black Lives Matter other than a yard sign. Then she heard about car parade protests in other cities, which allow participants to stay socially distanced in their cars. So she partnered with other local organizations — 8 Minutes 46 Seconds to Justice, Worthington Organizing for Racial Justice and activist Desmond Fernandez — to launch the Safely Supporting Black Lives Matter Car Parade, taking place tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 10) at 1 p.m.Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
In the process of organizing, she also expanded the mission of the event. “As I was talking with people and trying to get them to support my idea, somebody said, ‘Why don't you make it for anybody who's in a high-risk group?’ And so I decided that was a good idea,” Best said. “And not only for the people in high-risk groups, but you have people like doctors and nurses and people who work in supermarkets who couldn't go to the protests because they couldn't risk carrying an infection back to their patients or their customers.”
In addition, Best was made aware of another event on Saturday, Black Art in the Park in Goodale Park, so she and the organizers incorporated the celebration of diversity and artistry into the parade route, which will launch Downtown from Broad Street Presbyterian Church (760 E. Broad St.) and pass by the Bricker federal building, police headquarters, city hall, the courthouse, the Statehouse, Goodale and back to the the church, where Fernandez will speak.
“One way that we can show our support for Black Lives Matter is considering that black art matters, and showing up for that, too,” said Best, who is also incorporating a food drive into the parade.
Best anticipates lots of BLM signage, car decorations and plenty of honking horns on Saturday afternoon. “I think it's important, especially with the ‘Boomer’ meme going around, that younger people understand that there are many older people in the community who can't come out and stand next to them, but who do stand with them, striving to beat systemic racism,” Best said.