Orlando – More protests have been happening all around the nation fighting against racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd. But for some, the fight for racial equality isn’t a new one-- it’s one they’ve been working toward for years.
"This is something that we have been doing to move for people on the ground for some years," said Miles Mulrain, Jr.
He's talking about his organization, Let Your Voice Be Heard, of which he's the executive director.
"We started a community forum about four years ago. Our forum was to bring all the great things that are going on in the city in one place and to see how we can build up on it and make it better, and that where we actually came up with new ideas that we could do that were missing. We do at the school outreach, we did stuff with the youth in the JDC," said Mulrain. "We also did stuff with communities that would get in so much violence that would happen."
The #BlackLivesMatter movement started in 2013 in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. But Mulrain said more recently, what he called a ‘perfect storm’ has contributed to more people coming forward to speak up about racial inequality.
"It's great to see that the whole country is finally in accord, it's like everyone's doing stuff," he said. "One time they could say it was just one group's problem, but now other people are seeing this plight. And then on top of it, we had a pandemic that is still going on.
So when you have people who are out of work, who are tired of seeing the same oppression over and over, and then people have time to take to the streets, this is how that perfect storm combines."
He said that support for the Black community has been made even stronger as people continue to struggle.
"There are so many people out here who are waiting on unemployment, who were hard workers, diligent, did everything they had to do and are still doing everything they had to do for the system but are not getting paid," said Mulrain. "And what's happening right now is affecting more than one group. So when somebody gets affected, they're like, 'Well, if I could get affected this way, I could only imagine what's happening to this group, also.'"
Groups of people that are now coming together to fight for some real change.
“There’s a couple of suggestions we made, and we actually have joined coalitions like Orlando Youth in Action and submitted thirteen-point plans that can be used and utilized to help bring change here, right at home. We need to see things actually take pen to paper,” said Mulrain. “We want to see them reduce their use-of-force measures. We want to see more accountability when it comes to body cam footage. We want to see that the people that we entrust to sort of protect us don’t get more leniency when it comes down to crimes.”
Mulrain said it's important to know that most protests have been peaceful and his group does not support violence.
"When we see the people who are rioting and looting on the news, those are separate people. When you see a thousand people downtown peacefully protesting and you hear about five people go into a store and looting, you can't associate those thousand people with a couple fewer people, he said. "And I think we have to understand that we are here for one purpose, that's to make change."
And to make that change happen, Mulrain said it's not the time to slow down and it is definitely not the time for complacency.
“We’re introducing new programs to get the community engaged,” he said. “We also have groups that we’re working with to get mental health resources, to get trauma-informed care, which we have been a champion for years with other groups. And there are other programs that we have suggested to the elected officials that we want to see implemented. And in the meanwhile, we will continue to be in the communities doing outreach walks. We will continue to do ‘Stop the Violence’ movements, we will continue to mentor the youth.”
Mulrain said the best way to make a difference is to get involved.
“I think what’s most important is that people find out how they can help in their own way, that’s personal to them,” said Mulrain. “It takes many people working together. There are people who are listening now who weren’t listening to us last year or the year before. There are people who are sitting down to say we need to do something. And more importantly, you’re seeing people from different walks of life come together to agree on one thing, that humanity is key.”