Dillingham joined communities around the state in protesting police violence and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, holding a march on Saturday.
Around 80 people started marching from the Dillingham harbor Saturday, joining communities around Alaska to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Many of the Dillingham protestors focused on community's place in the national movement, as well as what people are doing to address racism in their own lives.
“I was really feeling like we weren’t doing anything to show our support besides posting it on Facebook. And then I saw that a lot of other villages and communities in Alaska were hosting Black Lives Matter marches themselves," said Jasmin Kritz, one of the organizers. “It’s all about equality within our justice system that’s been so harsh to our Black community.”
Kritz is Alaska Native. One of her signs read “Yup’ik solidarity with Black Lives Matter," and she said the country’s justice system has also mistreated her community.
“I wanted to become active in showing that this is something that needs to end today," she said, adding that she hopes marching will push people in Dillingham to fight for justice every day. "'Cause that’s what being an activist is. Even if no one sees it, you’re still adding to the better cause for everybody.”
During the march, speakers challenged everyone to look at their own racism — to ask themselves what they can do to dismantle systemic racism, and that which they perpetuate in their own lives.
Acacia Walton, one of the people marching, said that it’s not about fixing the system, it’s about changing it.
“You know, we need a new justice system. Our system was made like this, so it’s not really that it’s broken, but it was made like this," she said. "We need a change, and I would like to see a change. Not only for myself, but for my family, and friends, and loved ones. I do think this will help here in Dillingham. I mean, there are many people of color here in this region, including myself and my family. We are a mixed family. So, you know, Dillingham comes together when they need to, just like today.”
“I think that we all need to change," said Marlena Bavilla, another protestor. "Not just outside of Dillingham but within Dillingham. I definitely do think so."
Bavilla emphasized that some of that change starts at home.
“There’s a big proportion of Dillingham that hangs on to racism, cause that’s how they were raised to do by their parents, their grandparents, aunts and uncles and everybody. I want to change that with my family. I want to start with my house. And I would like to see that everywhere throughout Alaska,” she said.
From the fire hall, people marched to the police station. The Dillingham Police Department approved the parade permit organizers applied for, according to the Facebook page for the march. There, people kneeled for 8:46 — the length of time that white police officer Derek Chauvin forced his knee against George Floyd’s neck.
Crystal Nixon-Luckhurst was one of several people who spoke in front of the station. She said that for people who haven’t thought about their own racism, the march was just the beginning.
“It’s not just the DPD. It’s every institution. It’s the stores, it’s our BBNA, our hospital. It’s every place. And I could say there’s racism in every one of these institutions,” she said.
Desi Bond, another organizer, spoke about her own experience of racism as an Alaska Native woman.
“I was 12 or 13 going to junior high in Anchorage, and a white boy, he spit on me, told me to go back to where I came from," she said. "I was told countless times I was another dumb drunk Native girl asking for it. I’ve heard so many different things. But to see me standing where I am today, and I held myself accountable for things that I’ve said, I’ve done.”
Speaking at the end of the march, Bond said that it wasn’t until she attended an Undoing Racism workshop in Dillingham that she forced herself to examine her own internalized racism.
“I think one thing we can change is just, the things that we’ve learned — to unlearn it. And then to do the own work within ourselves and within our homes, and then that can make a huge difference right there," she said. "And then being a part of this, you know, speaking up, letting our voices be heard. If you see racism, you know, call it for what it is, and just educate — educate one another.”
Efrion J. Smith also marched on Saturday. Smith is from New York City, and he moved to Dillingham in December. He’s Black, and he said he didn't expect such a large turnout.
“I was surprised, being from the East coast and being here in Dillingham, I didn’t think that it was something that was important to the people of Dillingham," he said. "So to see Alaska Natives fighting for justice for all people was something that I really enjoyed, and it produced a lot of emotion that I’m still having to process. But I’m glad that we were able to have something here.”
Smith said that when small communities march it helps bring awareness of what’s happening across the country to those places where people aren’t having that dialogue.
“I was watching CNN, and they showed all the different small towns that they were having protests in, and I just think that it raises awareness," he said. "The more that you do it it just raises people’s awareness, because some people may not be focused on what’s going on in the larger communities. So I think it’s a good thing.”
Correction: Desi Bond said that after an Undoing Racism workshop, she began to examine her own internalized racism. She said she was not speaking specifically about Black people, as originally reported.
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