The Cornerstone for Change

In solidarity with protesters – who remain out in force across the country – we’re running a series this week called “Black Lives Matter in the Coal Region.” Dozens of events have been held in our region, from Scranton to Shamokin. This series seeks to amplify the voices of those who spoke out, providing transcribed speeches and videos from various events.

We’re also accepting submissions. If you gave a speech at a local Black Lives Matter rally, please consider sending us the transcript.

This first speech, by Sam Blankenship, took place at the Freedom Fighters March in Wilkes-Barre on June 20, 2020. It begins at the 1:42:44 mark in this video.

Wilkes-Barre, PA (July 11, 2020) — A woman waves a Black Lives Matter flag on Public Square during the Black Lives Matter NEPA United Movement event in Wilkes-Barre. Photo by Paul Weaver. To view more of his work, visit ©Paul Weaver

by Sam Blankenship

How we all doing today?

Alright. First, I want to thank everybody for coming out here, giving up your free time and your family time.

I know that a lot of you want to know why we’re still out here, you know we’ve been out here for weeks—why we’re marching and what we want.

We’re out here because we need to keep a spotlight on the issues at hand. The media’s getting quiet, social media’s not talking about it as much anymore, so we have to.

I want you to know that you matter. Your presence matters. There is strength in numbers. Solidarity, brotherhood, and sisterhood.

This is the cornerstone for change.

If they see that we aren’t going anywhere—that we won’t stop—the change that we want will come. We must be patient and persistent. We cannot afford to ease off the gas. We have to be relevant. So don’t stop talking about it. Don’t stop sharing your knowledge on social media. They’re watching our every move right now and hoping that we slow down, that we stop all together, so that they don’t have to change a damn thing.

We deserve equality, justice, and freedom. We will not give them what they want, because they want us to go back to their version of normal. It’s easier for them. Doing what’s right is never the easy thing to do.

So we will demand police reform and accountability. We shouldn’t have to be afraid of the police. We want a ban on all knee and chokeholds. We want a national database for all police conduct reviews. We want an independent investigation whenever an officer kills someone. We want officers to undergo routine mental health evaluations. We want officers to spend more time in training and to learn de-escalation tactics. We want legislation passed that will hold officers accountable for their actions.

We the people deserve to have faith and trust in those that have sworn an oath to protect and serve.

Sam Blankenship was born and raised in Wilkes Barre, while poetry comes natural to her, bios do not. She’d rather get to know people the old-fashioned way and find any excuse to bring up her nerd cabinet since it’s her pride and joy. In her free time, she likes to read, binge TV, and occasionally turn on a Playstation. 

All photos for this series are by Paul Weaver. Check out more of his work here.

One comment

  1. […] speech – the second in our series – took place on June 20, 2020 in Pottsville as part of the Juneteenth Celebration hosted by […]


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