Thursday, June 4, 2020

Melanie Hamblen: Remarks for "Kneel for Nine" - June 2

My thanks to Melanie for sharing her remarks that she prepared and delivered on the Town Common on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

"Good evening, My name is Melanie Hamblen and I am one of your 9 Town Councilors, as well as a small business owner, here in Franklin.

Thank you all for being here, I would like to thank Joni and Justin for asking me to speak.

I have lived a privileged life, luckily I was raised by people who taught me and my siblings that Everyone, no matter what the circumstance they are born into, have the right to thrive. And that we should help people as best as we can.

When I was in grade school, growing up in Lexington, my parents signed us up to be a host family in the METCO program. I am not sure if they knew what a difference it would make in the life of our family at the time. And I am not sure how well it went over with some of the other folks in our family.

While I slept, safe in my bed in my white suburb, A young student would get up hours ahead of the start of school to get on the bus from Roxbury.
The amount of travel and sacrifice of time lost with his family, that he endured to get the education that I took for granted, is staggering.

I can only imagine what agony and anxiety his mother must have felt to see his small beautiful face disappear in the dark of the morning. Not sure if he would come back, not being able to protect him or know what his day was like. He got on that bus day after day through the busing riots in South Boston and so many more troubles. But her belief in the promise of a better education must have let him get on that bus.

And for that I am grateful, for this young student became my brother George. From whom I have learned a great deal. And this relationship has allowed me to look at life with a different lens than most of my counterparts. He told me recently that we did teach him something too. That not all people of one race are bad, there are just bad apples.

George has grown children of his own whose safety we cannot stop worrying about.

My son Tommy has a METCO brother as well, whom he met in School in Westwood. I think of Steven as one of my two sons.

Both Geoge and Steven are a part of us and we fear for them and weep with them. When their hearts are broken so are ours.

The past four months have not been an easy time for me. I have been afraid to take my dog for a walk,
Afraid to go for a run, I have been sworn at,

Had things thrown at me, Had my property spit on.
And now I have a better understanding of what my brother and son and all people of color must feel like and go through everyday of their lives. When will the next rude gesture come? Will it be in front on my WW2 veteran father? My friend’s children? Who will be the next person to attack me?

It could be anyone, even someone I have known for years.

How can generations of people survive this everyday without feeling unheard, unloved, disposable, less than human?

I thought I knew, oh but now I know.

But this is really what I want to say to you all:

That being nice and doing good deeds is not enough.
It is up to white people to realize that we have a lot of serious work to do.
We must accept the fact that we are perpetuating social injustice by doing nothing.
We must take the time to understand our part in the systemic racism of our culture and society. 
Please let tonight be the BEGINING of our journey together to understand and change the status quo.

We need to demand that the officers involved in the murder of innocent people are arrested and we must insist that all people of color are protected.

I will leave you with two quotes from our historical Franklin figures.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”  Benjamin Franklin

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity” Horace Mann

Thank you."

Melanie Hamblen: Remarks for Kneel for Nine - June 2
Melanie Hamblen: Remarks for Kneel for Nine - June 2

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