By George Evans (photos courtesy of the 100BlackMenDeepWalk Facebook Page)
If you live in Fairfield, chances are you heard something about the “100BLACKMENDEEP” walk that happened on September 4th. As part of the event, citizens from Fairfield and Ensley marched from the Fairfield High School to Willie Mays Park while chanting “Black power, Black unity” and “Black love.” The commotion might have woken you up. If so, that’s ok—that was kind of the point.
According to Indeya Assatta (a two-time organizer of such events) the protest was supposed to “wake up the hood” both physically and morally. In Fairfield, this took the form of a march. Water was provided to keep protesters hydrated, and cars were used to protect the walkers from traffic. All of this was done without any kind of outside funding. “This is a real grassroots effort,” said Indeya. “We are paying for all of this stuff out of pocket, and these people have given up their Sunday mornings to come out and make a difference.” By “making a difference” Indeya meant canvassing houses, knocking on doors, and bringing people out into the streets in a show of solidarity.
Was this effective? It should be said that the protest refused to succumb to the disease of so many modern protests—it didn’t get stuck in bring-awareness- molasses: the phase where a whole lot gets talked about and a whole lot of nothing gets done. Instead, feel-good symbols were followed by serious consideration and thought. “After each walk there is a town-hall meeting” said Assatta, “in which the community is divided into over eleven committees, each focused on a different issue. The idea is that these committees will continue to work for change long after the march has finished.” Ultimately it would seem that “100BLACKMENDEEP” events are all about communal solidarity. Assatta intimated as much when she said “We want to deal with local problems locally, from within the community.”
By now, you are probably wondering about the name. Why 100BLACKMANDEEP? According to Dejuan Hall (the movement’s main Facebook activist) the events are designed to “bridge the gap between the youth and elders” of Fairfield. One look at the crowd proved that they had, on however small a scale, accomplished just that. Of the two hundred or so protestors, citizens of every age and gender were present. Clint Walker, a resident and first time participant, acted as a sort of icon for this age disparity, showing up with his young son. When asked why the event was important, he stated “My son is out here with me today. He is nine years old. I need to let him see that there’s more to life than video games and hanging out with friends.” This sentiment was shared by Dejuan Hall, who said “We need to start with black men. We need to be leaders in our community. We have to set an example for the kids. If they can’t look to us, then who can they look to?”
Though they had a lofty goal it would seem that the protesters had very realistic expectations for the event. Mr. Walker summed up this realism by asking, “What is going to happen after today?” He spoke his biggest concern in the form of a question: “Is today a photo-op, or a true opportunity to change and build something?” A tough question indeed.
A cynical reader might balk. After all, it is true that the Fairfield event is over. The protestors have gone back to their houses. The resounding call and response of megaphone and black voices has died. The asphalt streets are once again barren.
But the movement has just begun.
The group is now performing a “west side tour” of similar events. They also now hold town-hall meetings at 6:30 on Tuesday nights in the Mosque #69 on Tuscaloosa Avenue. If you are interested in joining the group call Dejuan at 205-460-6435, or follow the group on Facebook at #100BLACKMENDEEPWALK.