Tea Area High School alumni Kendra Jefferson was one of the speakers at the Sioux Falls March for George Floyd on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Jefferson lives in Sioux Falls but attended Tea Area from first through 12th grade. She graduated in 2016.
Her message to those in attendance on Sunday’s peaceful demonstration was to hold people accountable.
Jefferson said, “In my speech, I spoke to the younger generation. I told them that I was a young Black woman raising a Black six month old baby boy, and it terrifies me. I spoke about the lives that were lost to police brutality and how the system has always been broken. We were taught this was behind us now, how we all live in a united nation. We experienced our first Black president at a young age. It was so ingrained in us that this movement was something in the history books, when in fact, we were standing there, making history.
“We have an opportunity, a different situation than those that we learned about in our history books. We have the means to hold people accountable. We live in the age of technology, we have access to the world with the click of a few buttons from these devices we are so chastised for having. We get to decide how we move forward from here. We get to unite with one another from all over the world in a way that has not been accessible before. I encouraged them to just keep this conversation going. When the momentum slows down, don’t let the demands for change to slow down as well. Vote and participate in elections, continue to demand justice and accountability, and don’t lose sight of what truly matters,” she said.
According to the US Census Bureau, 84.4% of South Dakota’s population is White. This number likely contributes to the lack of awareness on the issue of racism.
Jefferson said, “It doesn’t surprise me when people say, ‘this doesn’t happen here.’ It may not happen to them, but it happens.”
She explained, “It happens when you’re the only Black person in all of your classes at school. It happens when you’re the only Black person at every job you’ve ever had. It happens when you’re the only Black family in a restaurant. I remember when a boy in 4th grade told me, ‘I’m so glad I’m not Black. Your lips and nose are huge.’ And I never forgot him, or his comments to this day. I remember the first time I heard a group of Black teenagers get called the N-word because the gas station owner “thought” they had stolen. They didn’t. People don’t think before they speak and that’s why I ask people to educate themselves on topics like this before forming an opinion. Because most of the time, they don’t even have a clue.”
Jefferson encourages anyone who wants to show their support or solidarity to fully educate themselves before speaking on this topic.
She said, “Speak with someone who is Black, watch interviews, watch videos, open up a history book if you have to. But never stop educating yourself on this topic.”