Justin Perry

About 250 people gathered in Marshall Park late Saturday to attend what was billed as a “call to action” against white supremacy. Similar vigils have been held all across our nation following last week’s march by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.

The Marshall Park gathering, led by the group Charlotte Uprising, drew progressive activists representing a host of liberal concerns, but mainly they came to denounce the continuing scourge of racism in America.

Charlotte resident Justin Perry, who co-chairs the group OneMeck, was among them. Here, in his own words, he talks about his motivations for being there:

“Urgency is what brought me out. I feel like we already had our bluff called in the election, where our current president pretty much ran the most blatantly racist campaign I’ve ever seen and dared everybody to vote. And he won and basically legitimized some views that are dangerous and lethal to people like me. And so the opportunity to stand and confront white supremacy directly…I didn’t have much of a choice; I had to be out here.

“I think we will continue to be outnumbered until more of us step up and allow other people who want to stand for justice to come out of the closet. I think there are two closets. There has been the closet of white supremacy, which has kind of opened up in the last nine months. But I think there’s also a closet of folks who want to be on the right side of justice but are scared and don’t know what to do. So I think the more of us that show up and do that, and legitimize that, the greater chance we have to make the numbers a little bit better.

“I think it’s an opportunity right now for our city to dig deep and find its heart. I think this is something we all need to rally around, because in the end, white supremacy only loves itself and pretty much kills everybody, including white people. I’m here obviously as a black man, but also, this is something that’s going to impact you whether you’re black, whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re gay or straight. Eventually white supremacy kills all, so we need to have a real conversation about addressing that in this country.

“I’m what I call a realistic optimist, or some would call it a hopeful pessimist. I’m always going to constantly work, but I’ll always have my doubts. I think that’s the nature of a black person in our society who has been constantly let down. But I feel I don’t really have much of a choice but to fight.

“There are some things that are happening that may be drastic enough to open up some people’s eyes that were still in denial after we elected a black president and thought we had moved into a post-racial state. A lot of us as black folks realized that it wasn’t a reality. I think there were some other people who operated in the middle who now are having their eyes opened. What I can hope for is that we can bring them out of the closet in the same way that Trump, Bannon and the alt-right have brought out the white supremacists.”