HAVILAND–More than 50 members of the Haviland community in southcentral Kansas gathered together on June 18 for a Black Lives Matter rally to shed light on racial injustice in the small, rural city’s park.
According to www.worldpopulationreview.com, Haviland has a 2020 population of 681, down by 2.85 percent from the 2010 census recording of 701. However, since Haviland is home to Barclay College which brings several multi-cultural students to the area each year, the community is open to differences in race and color perhaps more so than other surrounding rural Kansas communities.
"I was extremely happy with the turnout," said Marcus Collick, organizer of the event. "I truly believe that the group that came will help continue conversations and advocate for those persons of color that they encounter and those persons of color who live in their community."
In light of recent events, Collick said he wanted to break the silence that he felt was happening in his community. He also wanted to honor those who have fallen victim to police brutality. Collick said he not only wanted to start conversations with people that he lives life with but to make sure these conversations continue.
The rally consisted of shedding light on recent police brutality, prayer, worship through song, and speeches by Mayor Aaron Stokes and Haviland resident Ethan Chance.
"Something like this rally is a bit out of character for places like Haviland, so the response can be unpredictable," said Stokes. "But I was glad at the same time that people feel the freedom to speak up about what concerns them."
Stokes said he felt that this rally was important for the town of Haviland because social injustice isn’t just a big city problem but a human problem.
"The need to call for equality and freedom is just as important here as it is in, say, Kansas City," said Stokes.
Chance said it was important to have these kinds of events and conversations in a predominately white community for a multitude of reasons. Although he said he never feels like he will be harmed because he is a person of color living in Haviland, he knows that these injustices happen in other places.
"Conversations around these things are important in small towns like Haviland to have," said Chance. "Bringing awareness to these issues in any level of communal capacity is important."
Collick said the Haviland rally was not associated with the Black Lives Matter organization but was associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Originally from Salisbury, Massachusetts, Collick moved to Haviland to attend Barclay College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree and met his wife, Kayla. He received a Masters in Education from K-State University in May and will use his new degree as a 1st-grade teacher at Southwest Elementary in Pratt. Collick is the first Black male teacher at Southwest Elementary.