Twenty-year-old Shelyia Brown organized a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest near Tick Neck Park in Pasadena on June 6, feeling compelled to do something after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25. The protest drew hundreds of supporters and a handful of counter-protestors.
A 2018 Northeast High School graduate, Brown said she endured racism in Pasadena throughout her childhood.
Q: What was it like attending Northeast High School as a young black woman?
A: It was a good time going to Northeast High School, but my ninth-grade year was the worst because that senior class threatened to hang my friend for using their pen.
Q: The NAACP attended the peaceful march on Saturday. Your mom was there. How did you go about organizing the event?
A: The NAACP attending wasn’t planned at all; [Jacqueline Boone Allsup] showed up to support the movement and to also speak once she found me. My mother also spoke at the event. Organizing the event was very stressful, counting on the fact I only have myself four days to do it. I woke up one morning and I made a video to show people how serious I was about doing a protest, and it went everywhere. People posted, and once it got on Facebook, things got a little hectic.
Q: How important was it that you had support from black members of the community but also white members of the community chanting “black lives matter” and support from the police?
A: It was very great to have the black members of Pasadena come to support it. It really surprised me the amount of kids that wanted to get involved and offer me help on setting everything up. It was amazing. When I brought the idea to the police, they jumped right on board with me and let me do things the way I wanted to. They were amazing.
Q: You decided to respond to counter-protestors by “rising above” instead of combating them. How did you come to that decision?
A: When I saw what people were calling me and saying [things] to me, I knew that if I went back and forth with them it would only make them more dedicated to messing with my event, and I had to be an example not only for the kids but the adults as well. It was just the mature thing to do!
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: I plan to continue to educate not only kids but elected officials about what they can do to help the black community feel safe in suburban areas. And to speak to kids in schools to help them more understand why it is black lives matter.