The CNMI may be nearly 7,000 miles away from Minneapolis, but many of its residents are woke to what happened to George Floyd and stand with African Americans and proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement. Saipan Tribune went out to the community to check how they feel about the death of the 46-year-old Floyd and to chime in on the crisis enveloping America today.
Bernadette Horey said that, as people who live in a community with a tiny African American population, the CNMI has a lot to learn about the struggles of black people. “I find that lots of kids consider the ‘n’ word to just be a slang term and not understand the weight of the history behind it and how it shouldn’t be used by non-black people,” said the 20-year-old from As Matuis.
“We can start by educating our friends and neighbors to not use harmful slurs as well as spread the news about these protests and find ways to help like signing petitions and donating where you can. Every little bit counts,” she added.
Many people around the world have watched with growing unease at the civil unrest in the United States after the latest in a series of police killings of black men and women. Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. The officer was fired and charged with murder.
Jan Reyes, 25, from Chalan Kanoa, said the current protests and unrest across the U.S. is not just a call to justice for Floyd but for every black life that has been taken away as result of not just police brutality but the pervasive issue of systematic corruption and neglect.
“As a resident of the CNMI, the best thing to do is to be educated. Learn about the history and the relationship between the U.S. government and the African American people. This is a very sensitive issue and voicing out our opinions without ensuring we know and understand the history of this violence and what it means to be a black person in America will do nothing but add fuel to the fire,” Reyes said. “Many older people in our community may not understand the cause of all the violence occurring in these protests and maybe that’s where we should start. Understanding is the first step in order to effectively do our part in helping the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Reyes added, “We as a community need to be aware of the power we all possess when we decide to unite and voice out issues pertaining to taking away basic human rights.”
Alexa Saimon said people on Saipan are fully capable of protesting and standing in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in the U.S. mainland. “I think [that] if people are able, they shouldn’t be afraid to go stand with that woman, Zoe [Travis]. But if they are unable, there are several hundreds of places they can donate to, to help the cause, and show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” said 20-year-old from Kagman.
Travis is currently doing a one-person Black Lives Matter protest at the Atkins Kroll intersection in Oleai. She is there every day this week from 8am to 9am and welcomes anyone to join her.
Rinisa Torres, 19, of Capital Hill, said that many people of the CNMI may claim that this is not our issue to fight for, and that we should keep it in the mainland. But she disagrees with that way of thinking. “Our ability to isolate ourselves from this issue is a privilege in itself and we as a whole should acknowledge that and utilize it any way we possibly can. The black community has had enough.”
Though the Minneapolis is an ocean away, Torres said there is still plenty of work that can be done here, such as speaking out on social media, donating to freedom funds and memorial funds, or calling state representatives and police departments to demand justice for all of these lives lost.
“Take it upon yourselves to educate yourselves on the Black Lives Matter movement. Have conversations about anti-black sentiment in our community with your family members and friends. It’s a hard conversation, but it must be heard. The best thing that we can do is to amplify black voices. Hear them, empathize, and fight for them. …Stand with our black brothers and sisters because there will come a time when we have to fight for our lives, and they will be right there beside us. Their lives matter,” she said. (With AP)