Racism: Guam has its own stories to tell, protesters say
A crowd of placard-bearing protesters gathered in Hagatna June 6, 2020 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Photos by Johanna Salinas
(Updated 8"29 p.m. June 6, 2020)
At the foot of Chief Kepuha monument in Hagatna, a turntable was playing soft beats, creating a mood for a crowd of placard-bearing protesters that gatherred amid the afternoon traffic. Paula Allen took the mic to share her encounters of racism on Guam.
In the news and on social media, Black Lives Matter is trending after incidences of black Americans being attacked and killed over the past months. Ahmaud Arbery was shot by neighbors as he was jogging in Georgia. In Kentucky, Breona Taylor was shot in her bed eight times by police as they executed a search warrant. And recently in Minnesota, George Floyd was suffocated by police after he had been handcuffed.
With these acts of violence thousands of miles away, many on Guam are showing their solidarity in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The first rally on June 1 drew a crowd of almost 100 at the ITC building.
On June 6, the crowd grew to over 100 residents at the BLM rally at Chief Kepuha statue.
Allen who is a UOG student was still warped with energy as when she stepped away from the mic. Just a few yards away from the continued chants, Allen felt emotional from sharing. “People say Black Lives Matter doesn’t apply to Guam, but me being Black and growing up here, I still got called every name in the book. People weren’t educated. I was told how ugly I am, how dirty I am,” she said.
Allen also wants locals to acknowledge that there is racism among Pacific cultures. “People say this whole thing does not apply to Guam, but it is no doubt that it does apply here,” she said. “There is racism toward Chuukese. There’s racism toward Filipinos. Heck even sometimes there’s racism towar Chamorus.”
The university student discussed how her journey through social justice has even changed her personal relationships. “In 2016, I started being an advocated for this. I lost so many friends, because they didn’t understand,” Allen shared. “They thought this whole thing was useless. Coming here, seeing everybody really means so much to me, because just five years ago nobody cared. All these people here care. Awareness is the first step to change. Being educated is the first step to change.”
Allen believes that being an ally to the Black Community means listening to their emotions and experiences. “For people who want to be my ally, keep in mind the reality is if you don’t know what it means to be Black,” she said. “Allies have to support us but at the same time do not drown us, do not speak over us. Hear us, acknowledge us, donate, sign those petitions, share those posts, because any form of awareness is important and it’s the first step to change.”
Allen is aware that rallying during the COVID-19 pandemic is risky, but she believes that leaving home for the demonstration is essential. “I’m going to go shower after this,” she said. “I’m going to sanitize. I’m trying not to hug people even though people want to hug me. I’m still aware of the pandemic that’s happening and I’m still going to take extra precautions. I haven’t even been out since this whole lockdown. This is the first time I’m out without the agenda of groceries.”
Meanwhile, the Independent Guam movement issued a statement expressing support for Black Lives Matter.
"As CHamoru protectors and allies who have long lived under the violence of US military occupation and colonization, we send our solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement and all other Black organizers fighting nationwide for their right to self-determination - the right to live and decide their political futures without the everyday threat of violence. We offer support to our Black mañe’lu (siblings) as they continue to fight racism and oppression."
The group, said "the fight to protect black lives and black self-determination is tied to our own struggle for liberation."
While noting that the histories and present-day experiences of "oppression and violence are distinct, they are rooted in the same racism," the Independent Guam group said. "Black people and CHamorus both experience violence in our communities. Police departments that continue to oppress and terrorize Black communities across the U.S. receive funding and equipment from the Department of Defense. DoD also contributes to the militarization of our islands through colonization, occupation, toxic contamination, and war games. At the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and the CHamoru self-determination movement is the desire for our peoples’ basic human rights to be recognized and protected. As acclaimed author and activist James Baldwin wrote during the Civil Rights movement - “We cannot be free until they are free.”