SALEM — Terrell Greene, a staff member at New Liberty Innovation School, could do nothing but smile.
Standing in front of the Salem police headquarters Friday afternoon, Greene looked out at a crowd of more than 100 people that gradually built behind him as he and others walked from Salem Common, through the Point neighborhood, and to the police station as part of a peaceful Juneteenth march.
"I'm a little overwhelmed," he said, "and very happy with the turnout."
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865. In the wake of weeks of protest that began with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the holiday this year became a day of protest over racial injustice.
During his remarks after the march, Greene called attention to about a dozen children who were in the crowd marching with parents.
"What we're showing these kids as they're coming up is extremely important for me, but it's important for you too, because history is going to keep doing this — coming around and repeating," Greene said. "It's people who come forward and show what the problem is, and talk about it, people who purposefully hit the neighborhoods that are impacted by this... it's these demonstrations that help lead the powerful movements we're trying to make."
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll acknowledged the holiday on social media, posting a proclamation that declared the day "Juneteenth in Salem," and pushed for residents "to celebrate and reflect on this date's historic significance accordingly." A flag-raising has been scheduled for Thursday, June 25, at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 93 Washington St.
In his remarks before the march, Greene said Juneteenth is a part of history that doesn't get described.
"We're celebrating Juneteenth here together, as this is a date of special symbolism to the Black community to mark progress to liberation," he said. "We have designed this march, as we're still trying to liberate ourselves."
The route took marchers through the Point, a neighborhood widely recognized as a vibrant community heavily representing people of color. Police shut down the roads in a rolling fashion as the march followed its path. There were no violent or negative incidents observed throughout the event.
"The route that was planned for today was very specific, to incorporate people of color that live in this community," Greene said, "and actually hit the neighborhoods that aren't often hit when these marches happen."
Darrell Jones, who served 32 years in prison after being found guilty of a murder in a Brockton parking lot in 1985, also addressed marchers. After 32 years of Jones proclaiming innocence, a judge ordered a new trial, which he won June 12 of last year, according to WBUR.
Jones attempted to have someone from the police department come out, but was told by a member of the department manning the dispatch desk that nobody was available to come out, on department orders, but that if he could, he would stand. That prompted Jones, in front of cameras in the police department's lobby, to say, "I respect that, from all the time I did, to have an officer say that he would do that in the station... I appreciate that."
Salem resident Olivia Madez said she joined "to show my support, especially because I firmly believe it's important for me to be there and share my voice, and show my support for other people who are marginalized."
Anna Chaykler, another Salem resident, also made it a point to follow the march to its conclusion, saying minorities are known as such "because they're minoritized." Marching is important, she said, because "it isn't going to do [expletive] if you don't do it."
Standing alongside her, Salem High School alum Nadine Adisho noted the racial makeup of advanced placement courses she took at Salem High and how the student populations in the classes were "almost completely white."
"It was very much white-washed," Adisho said, "and people would talk about how Salem isn't part of the problem with racism."
To that end, the crowd was a mix — with heavy concentrations of white marchers, Black, Latinx and other people of color mixed throughout.
"I wish more people showed up, and Black people too — but white people specifically," Adisho said. "White people came into my job all day but didn't come here."