Protestors listen to a woman recite poetry as they gather in downtown Champaign to protest the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this week. At the intersection of Main and Chestnut on Friday, July 8, 2016. CHAMPAIGN — After a week that ...
CHAMPAIGN â€” After a week that saw two black men killed by police and five officers fatally shot in Dallas, a group of local hip-hop artists decided to get together and plan a different way to demonstrate against injustice.
In downtown Champaign on Friday night, a crowd of more than 150 people came together to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest and a "cipher," as local rap producer and teacher Lamont Holden described it.
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The open mic-style community gathering was called Good Vibes Only. Throughout the evening, music played from a set of speakers, people danced and talked while holding posters, and attendees came up to the microphone and sang, shared poems, rapped and spoke about their desire to end police brutality and the murder of black and oppressed people around the world.
Head organizer Shasta Knox, also known as Klevah in her rap group Mother Nature, said she felt this type of gathering, centered on creativity, would be more impactful than another protest.
"People have been marching and protesting and rallying since the civil-rights era and look where we are. We've made progress in some sense, but consciously people haven't come that far," she said.
"The reason this is important is not really because we need to raise more awareness, but we really need to create solidarity between us. There's a certain energy that's created when you have a circle of people able to express ourselves purely without a filter."
While the gathering was spurred on by events in the past week, Knox says she and several other local artists have been planning an event like this since 2015, when Eric Garner and Tamir Rice were killed by police officers.
"We say 'black lives matter' and people try to combat it with 'all lives matter,' but black lives matter doesn't mean we don't support other peoples' lives. That's a given. The reason for black lives matter is that there has been an attack on us; there's always been an attack on us," she said. "It has to come to an end."
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