Despite temperatures dipping into single digits, a crowd of approximately 30 to 50 area residents and political activists gathered on the Westford town common on Monday night as part of a rally for racial equality.
The event, spurred by the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police in New York City, Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere, was organized by 11-year-old Margaleet Katzenblickstein.
Better known as “Leeta”, the young activist was inspired by Jamie Levine Davis, the organizer of a similar “Black Lives Matter” event in Lexington and sought a time she could host an event that would fit into her schedule as a home-school student in her own town.
Katzenblickstein says she understands why the event might have seemed provocative to some, but she felt the need to speak out against racism in society, even though she seems racism as a much smaller problem in Westford than other places in America.
“We’re absolutely not anti-police,” she said. “But there’s just been so much racism and so much of it has been done by the police, so much of the shootings have been done by the police, that’s why.”
Suzanne Wade, reverend of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Westford was one of the local religious figures at the event echoed the sentiment that the event was not in opposition to police officers, but opposition to preconceptions.
“I think it’s absolutely difficult to be a police officer, there’s a lot of danger, there’s a lot of fear. But it’s worth noting that fear becomes more of a problem when someone is identified as other, as different than the person standing there,” she said.
Wade, Katzenblickstein and others in attendance noted that the racial makeup of Westford is far less diverse than in other areas of the country. However, the prevailing view among the crowd was that racial equality as a concept was important to fight for, even if it’s not an immediate concern for most local residents.
“I think it’s really important for everyone, whether they’re from towns with large African-American populations or not to really think about the ways in which our assumptions, our expectations, and so often things we’re not aware of,” said Wade. “All lives do matter, but too often we don’t recognize that our experiences are different and we act as though some lives are more important than others.
An “All Lives Matter” counter-rally supporting police officers was also expected to occur at the same time as the rally, although it has been postponed to 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 and will also take place on the town common.