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Black Lives Matter Book Group Takes to the Streets

Cole Knapper formed an anti-racist group that has started rallying for Black Lives Matter in Beechwood three times a week.

Several weeks ago, a group of Indivisible Georgia District 10 activists began demonstrating in support of Black Lives Matter on Baxter Street at Alps Road with a regular schedule of three days a week at noon.

The group of a dozen or so activists hold signs of support for the global BLM network such as “Make Good Trouble”—a quote from the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis—and “Justice Brings Peace.” The demonstrations last for exactly one hour, from noon to 1 p.m., on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, until Election Day. Karen Covi, one of the organizers of the regular demonstrations, sets an alarm on her phone to mark the end of the demonstration.

The actions have been organized by a diverse group of Indivisible members who have been inspired by their participation in the Charles Knapper Project, an anti-racist group led by local U.S. Army veteran and Athens native Cole Knapper. Cole says she is guided by the expression, “If you want to change the world, you have to change Athens, Georgia,” and envisions an Athens that is free from racism. She is charting a course to attack racism with open dialog and education. She named the group in honor of her father, a retired Clarke County School District principal and member of the local Board of Elections.  

“I just learned about Black Wall Street about four years ago!” she marveled, referring to the prosperous Black business district in Tulsa, OK that was virtually destroyed by rioting whites in 1921 in one of the most devastating massacres in the history of U.S. race relations, which only recently has come to light for many Americans. Knapper maintains that an understanding of that massacre and other horrific chapters in the often violent history of racism is vital to becoming anti-racist. 

The goal of the group is to help Athenians better understand the history of race in the U.S. and “move from being passive non-racists to becoming actively anti-racist, putting race at the center of the issues we are dealing with in this country.”

Knapper has selected an anti-racist reading list that the members are discussing in the Zoom meetings, including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. Knapper also cites the New York Times’ influential “1619 Project” as a source of information. 

Knapper quoted Toni Reed, one of the Indivisible Georgia 10 founders and a participant in the Charles Knapper Project, when asked about the group’s goal. “Toni said that we need to teach ourselves [to be anti-racist] in order to teach our grandchildren,” perhaps envisioning the fulfillment of another famous dream.