The letters tattooed on Jerry Jones’ arm spell out the name of the place he calls home: Kutztown.
The tattoo is a symbol of his pride in and commitment to the community where he has lived since 2006, Jones said Sunday during Stand Up, Stand Together, a solidarity march on Main Street in the borough.
Jones, a barber at City Cuts, 126 W. Main St., said he did not prepare a speech.
“I want to speak from the heart,” he said, looking out into the hundreds thronging the intersection of Main and Whiteoak streets. “This is beautiful. It’s a beautiful day. I see so many faces and colors. Love is real, everywhere, peace and love.”
The event was organized by Joni Klopp and other members of the Kutztown Solidarity Movement, an association of area residents who support the Black Lives Matter movement and aim to fight systematic oppression of black people in the U.S.
“Thank you for taking a stand for solidarity, racial justice and to elevate black voices, right here in our community,” Klopp said. “We all know that Kutztown is an incredible place to learn, to work, to live, and for some, to thrive.”
Klopp said the event was planned as an opportunity to educate, learn and listen.
“Today isn’t about your signs, nor is it an opportunity to post a photo on your Instagram,” she said. “Today shouldn’t be easy, but neither is the work we are trying to accomplish.”
Hundreds walked from the parking lot outside Kutzown University’s Beekey Education Center on College Boulevard to the downtown intersection, where Mayor Jim Schlegel and others addressed the crowd.
The peaceful event was one of several held throughout the county over the last two weeks in response to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died while a white Minneapolis officer restrained him by kneeling on his neck.
Marlon Creech, 16, a junior at Kutztown High School, was among the speakers Sunday.
“I am here to just say that I think everyone is equal, everyone, no matter your skin color,” he said. “We are all equal.”
Blacks in the U.S. have had to deal with centuries of racism, he said.
“That has to change,” Creech said, noting Floyd’s death has served as a “wake-up call.”
Kuztown University Dean of Students Donavan McCargo said he felt as though the earth shook when Floyd died.
“Because of Mr. Floyd, we should never be the same again,” McCargo said. “We should never sit back and see racism and injustice as normal. We should never allow a friend or co-worker to make offensive jokes again. We should never raise our children without telling the truth about black history again. We should never assume a black man or woman is less than another man or woman again. We should never hate someone we don’t know or despise them because of the color of their skin again.”
Near the end of the rally, Klopp asked the assembly to kneel, sit or lie down during a period of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time Floyd was pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck.
“We are creating a movement in Kutztown, and we are just getting started today,” she said in conclusion. “We look forward to continuing the conversation in the weeks to come.”