Anti-racism rally set for Saturday on Trumbull green

TRUMBULL — When racial justice protests swept the country last year in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, the sight of young people of all races taking the lead was striking, Michael Barker said.

“The kids are all right, aren’t they?” Barker said.

Now Barker and a small group of community members are seeking to recapture the energy of last summer with an anti-racism rally on the Trumbull green Saturday.

The event, called Stand Together Against Racism Trumbull, will feature a lineup of speakers. Most of them, once again, will be young people, and all of them of color, he said.

“We got together, a group of us that live in town, some elected and some not, and we got to talking about what we wanted to happen and how we wanted to change our town in some ways,” Barker said. “And we talked about anti-racism and how we wanted that to play a bigger part in our community.”

As a white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian, middle class male, Barker described himself as a “walking privilege machine.” But he said making a difference for those who are less privileged was his top priority.

“About seven or eight years ago, I trained with an organization that began my understanding of racism and anti-racism,” he said. “It’s wildly important for me as a person who identifies as I do, to try to give voice to those who don’t have voices.”

Wayne Winston, a frequent speaker on race who has begun hosting online forums on the topic, said Saturday’s rally was a chance for the community to take a stand.

“Our group has been working together ever since that whole equity and diversity committee controversy happened,” Winston said. “With George Floyd’s anniversary coming up, and all the anti-Asian hate and this crazy polarization out there, we decided it’s time to do something about that.”

Winston and Barker said the residents who formed the idea of taking action separate from any town board or committee were a loose collection of people who supported diversity.

“It’s just a cross section of our community,” Winston said. “So we collectively came up with the idea to make sure the town knows that we support diversity. We take a stand against racism, and we give people a place to stand with us.”

Many of the speakers at Saturday’s gathering were those who already had spoken out during Winston’s online forums on race.

“We want to hear from young people because what they go through in the schools, it was pretty difficult to listen to,” he said. “We’re creating a space where no one feels marginalized.”

Like Barker, Winston also noted the racial diversity among the young people, many of them teens, who took leading roles in last year’s protests.

“Black kids expressed that they felt a certain way, and their white counterparts recognized the importance,” he said. “These discussions about race have been phenomenal because it’s something a lot of people felt wasn’t being addressed.”

Winston also issued an open invitation to those who feel events like Saturday’s gathering, or groups like the town’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, weren’t necessary to participate in the conversation.

“There are those who feel that (racism) doesn’t happen in Trumbull, and that’s pretty typical if you aren’t in that skin, and if you’re not the subject of marginalization,” he said. “Dealing with racial issues doesn’t mean you’re a racist. It means there’s a problem and we need to address it.”