“For the First Time, I Feel We Can Make 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 the people in the streets, providing transcribed speeches and videos from various events.

This, our fourth speech in the series, is by Black business owner Irving Blackwell. It took place on June 13, 2020 in Scranton. You can view the speech here – it begins at the 1:08:32 mark.

And be sure to check out the previous three installments in this series: “The Cornerstone for Change,” “Slave Patrols Live On,” and “Who Will Stand With Me?

Watsontown, PA (June 28, 2020) — About 200 Black Lives Matter protesters in Watsontown were confronted by nearly 50 counter-protesters. Local activist group “If Not Us, Then Who?” organized the event. Photo by Paul Weaver. To view more of his work, visit weaverphoto.com. ©Paul Weaver

by Irving Blackwell

A lot of you probably don’t know me. My name is Irving Blackwell. I’m the owner of 570 Sports.

Today I’m here—and I’ve actually been advised by many people that I shouldn’t be here.

[Crowd: Why?]

They say it will hurt my business. But I don’t care about that. I care about equality.

I care about younger generations growing up and having some opportunity. Opportunity in high school. Opportunity in grade school. So they don’t have to become great athletes to become something. We got to help these children!

Our students, our teachers, our mentors—these people around here that make money telling kids to try to become athletes—do not help the Black African American.

Are we not American?

What these people say American and African American—I’m not even hung up on words because almost none of us are even from Africa. It’s just another word to separate us. We cannot let that happen.

This platform, these events are terrible, but at the same time it has brought Black people and white people all across the country together!

How do we beat this? You wanna know how we beat this? Together. And we get our asses out there to vote!

If you don’t vote, you won’t make change. One person—I don’t care if you gotta get out there and pick up the whole neighborhood—get everybody out there to vote. We will not be stooges. [inaudible]

Now I just want to take 10 seconds of silence for all the white people out here protesting with us, and trying to make change for the better.

Now, I thank you. Everybody. Because for the first time I feel like we can make a change.

And there’s so many people out there saying “Oh you’re being crazy. There’s no racism. There’s no racism.” But look at these people now. Is there racism?

[Crowd: Yes!]

Do you feel violated?

[Crowd: Yes!]

So many times I’ve been places in high school, so many times, having a party—and yeah that’s illegal but that’s what we did. And so many times, when it’s time to go and it’s, “Oh do you need a ride?” Do you know how many times I’ve heard this? “Well, you’re gonna have to duck down in the back seat because I don’t wanna get pulled over.”

Those are the same people, right now who are saying “There’s no racism.” You can’t tell me that.

I’ve had a lot of girlfriends in my lifetime, and some of them, I can’t even meet their parents because of my skin color. Is that right?

[Crowd: No!]

That ain’t right. But for the first time, we can make change. We can make change together. Everybody has to step up. Everybody has to play their part. You have to do something. You have to do something.

Speak up.

I’m not scared. I’m not hiding in my office. [inaudible]

This has been going on for far too long!

My mom once told me things will never change. That’s what she told me before she passed away. “But no matter what, keep trying.”

Keep trying.

We got Black. We got white. We got Puerto Rican. We got Hispanic. We got all nationalities standing up! And when we’re one people—that is everything!

Irving Blackwell is the owner of 570sports in Scranton.

Also from this series:

All photos for this “Black Lives Matter in the Coal Region” series are by Paul Weaver. Check out more of his work here.

Did you give a speech at a local BLM rally? Would you be interested in having it published on our blog? If so, be in touch.

One comment

  1. Bob Guida · ·

    You speak to mu heart. We have a chance. We have to vote and transform our government and our nation!


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