Local resident plans peace and unity march for Saturday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

By Shavonne Walker


SALISBURY — Rhonna Woodruff Olgesby never imagined being the organizer of a unity march, but she is and has planned one for this Saturday.

Oglesby said she hopes the community can see there is a way to be seen and heard in a peaceful way that will effect change.

The march grew from a place of emotion for Oglesby, she said, after the shootings of two black men last week in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the shooting of police in Dallas. The negative response and backlash to both made her want to stand up and be heard.

“It’s real, and although you may not see it happening, there is police harassment,” she said.

She thinks the injustice upon minorities, black men, will continue to happen if justice is not served for those who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

Oglesby said some officers who’ve been given slaps on the wrist is “basically saying it’s OK.”

“I’m hoping with all of us coming together in such short time and short notice, the community sees that this can be done, we have to work together. All it takes is for us to decide that we are going to be one,” she said.

“I didn’t feel like it should’ve been me. It should’ve been a leader in the community, but I am just as concerned about the welfare of our black men as anybody else. I have three sons, three grandsons, a father, and two brothers,” she said.

Oglesby said she’s received support and help from Kavari Hillie, who planned a protest last week that was later canceled. She said she wasn’t aware of Hillie’s planned protest, but accepts his support. She’s also received support and guidance from Kenneth Fox Muhammad El as well as community activist Alex Clark.

“They kicked in where I’m lacking. I’ve never been in a march and definitely never planned a march,” she said.

“At this point right here, I see everybody as equal, but I don’t feel everybody feels the same. In our community we have no unity. There is no unity. I’ve talked to so many people who have so many positive ideas in the community, but nobody is on the same page. My idea is to unite and be on the same page. There’s so much diversity, it doesn’t make sense because we all have the same agenda,” Oglesby said.

She said the plan is to meet at the Big Lots parking lot at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and East Innes Street at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and then walk down Innes Street to Park Sterling Bank, 401 W. Innes St.

There will be a Salisbury Police escort from the store to the bank to ensure the safety of the marchers. An officer will follow in front and back of the marchers and at the intersections as they walk down the street to make sure motorists are stopped.

Salisbury Police Capt. Melonie Thompson said she met with Oglesby, who filled out an application Tuesday that was then approved. The police department connected with the N.C. Department of Transportation to see if they could close the area where they will march, but were told it would take 60 days. So police compromised and will close the two outside lanes of travel.

A bus will drive marchers back to their cars. Oglesby has received donations of water to give to marchers. The owners of Bounce City have agreed to be the donation site for the water. Oglesby has also received support and help from artist and activist Whitney Peckman.

Oglesby said she is not concerned about potential violence and expects this to be a positive, peaceful march.

The only significance to the march route, Oglesby said, is that she wanted a route that was “opposite than the traditional parades or marches.”

She’s not sure how many people will join the march, but did create a social media Facebook e-vite to 2,000 people and of those has had responses from 150 people who said they would be attending. Some 85 other people said they would possibly attend.

“I don’t know how big this will get,” Oglesby said.

This march will not end at a one-day event Saturday, she said.

“This is not a one-time thing. This is ongoing. We are going to get it right. I don’t want anybody to count Rowan County out,” Oglesby said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.