By Nakeem Grant
Chanting “Black lives matter!” and shouting the names of African-Americans killed as a result of police brutality, demonstrators gathered at Malverne High School on June 10 to take part in a peaceful protest. More than 500 people from Malverne, Lakeview and Lynbrook marched north on Ocean Avenue and through parts of the village to promote unity.
“As we look throughout our country, we are witnessing the results of what happens when systemic racism continues,” said the Rev. Tristan Salley, of St. Paul AME Church in Lakeview. “Tonight we come not as Malverne or Lakeview residents, but as community members to continue to build a bridge over the ocean for a brighter today and a future of tomorrow.”
Malverne Police Department officers, who helped guide the march, shut down roads in the village to make way for the protesters. Some residents stood in their front yards, cheering.
“I’m marching because I take a stand against inequality and racism,” said Maria Casini, vice president of the Malverne Chamber of Commerce. “It really is time for equal rights and justice for all.”
Lakeview NAACP President Doris Hicks called for the Malverne School District’s curriculum to include a mandatory, semester-long class on the history on people of color and the history of the community. Hicks, a former educator in the district, also called for it to hire more black teachers.
“Over the years, the numbers have dropped drastically,” she said, “and I know qualified teachers of color. Our children deserve the best teachers, so let’s find them and hire them.”
A Lakeview resident for 34 years, Hicks also spoke about the need to change the name of Malverne’s Lindner Place, which was named for Paul Lindner, a leader of Nassau County’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
“This month is the time for change,” Hicks said. “Today I’m inspired and excited to know what we can do as a community.”
Several alumni of Malverne High School attended the demonstration, and urged residents to continue making strides toward equality. Lakeview resident Kyle Richard, who graduated from Malverne High in 2015 and is biracial, said that listening to others before passing judgment is key.
“I think that we all understand what’s going on in this country, and how intense the situations are everywhere,” Richard said. “We’re not going to ignore the fact that the color of our skin affects how we live our lives. It’s hard to understand what someone else is going through, but the best thing to do is open up your ears before you open up your mouth.”
Malverne High alumnus Denise Gregory, who graduated in 2017, said that while she never experienced racism in the community, that doesn’t reduce the need for change. “Before you decide to silence us because of what you think we’re going to say,” Gregory said, “listen to what we have to say first and realize that we’re talking from the heart. Desegregation wasn’t that long ago, so I’m saying, as a former student, just listen.”
The marchers stopped at Chester A. Reese Veterans Memorial Park for a vigil and prayer service. The group took a collective knee as Viberta Caesar, chairwoman of the Lakeview Council, read the names of African-American victims of police brutality.
The Rev. Dr. William Earl Thomas, of St. Johns Baptist Church in Lakeview, said that seeing the turnout for the demonstration brought tears to his eyes. “The reason for that is, I see those who made up their mind and that they see people according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” Thomas, 77, said. “This is evidence of what can happen when we unite as one. I’ve seen some change, but this is just the beginning.”