Many Bahamians living in New York stand in solidarity with Americans in protesting George Floyd’s death.
Chrystal Bethell participated in a peaceful protest in Manhattan on Sunday. She said she did it because she’s Black.
Johanna Broughton joined a protest on Friday night that started out peaceful, but eventually spiralled into violence. She said she did it because she felt she could not not join the fight.
Bethell and Broughton are two of tens of thousands of people who, for over a week, have participated in protests across the United States and around the world, after the death of American George Floyd, who died after his neck was pinned under a white police officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis last week.
The former officer, Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd, has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other former officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting a murder. The killing, captured on video, was the spark for the outpouring of anger and anguish expressed in demonstrations in more than 140 cities.
“It’s not just about Black American lives. It’s about Black people, and it’s about the history of systematic racism that’s within this country,” said Bethell, who lives in Queens, New York.
Bethell said Floyd’s death, and the manner in which it happened, was upsetting and sad. Over the past week, her feelings have been of sadness, anger and frustration.
She said she supports the Black Lives Matter protests and movement because it calls for the humane treatment of a race that has been treated inhumanely for years.
“It also calls for us to be treated fairly and equally no matter the color of our skin or our origin. My choice to be part of the protest was one way of me showing love and support to a community that I am a part of and that has supported me,” Bethell said.
She said it is empowering to be a part of change for the greater good of all mankind.
“As Bahamians, we have faced our own challenges of racism and inequality throughout history, and I connect with the pain that Black Americans are feeling due to their unjust treatment here in America. What happened to George Floyd could have happened to any of our family members that are living, working, vacationing or studying in America.”
With images of protests erupting in violent clashes broadcast on television, she said she initially felt nervous in deciding to participate in a protest simply because she did not know what to expect. But said she went in knowing she had the power to walk away if she felt or sensed that something was not going to be peaceful. And the fact that there are peaceful protests, despite what is being shown on television.
Bethell, an actress and model who has lived in New York for a decade, said she stands in solidarity with her American brothers and sisters not just for Floyd, but also for Breonna Taylor, who was killed on March 13 by the police during a botched drug raid at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, and all the lives that have been lost to the “hands of injustice”.
Broughton, who has lived in New York since 2009, and returned home to The Bahamas between 2014 and 2016 before returning to New York, said she wasn’t entirely comfortable going to the protest, but decided to participate because a friend was going and would be with her. And the protest was close by where she lives in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.
Broughton participated in a protest at the Barclay’s Center. But she did not get to stand with her friend, who had been arrested by the time she arrived. She was by herself as the peace fell apart.
“I was definitely scared and got grabbed and shoved by police officers just because of where I was standing,” she told The Nassau Guardian. “It was overwhelming.”
Broughton participated in the protests for her family.
“My dad is a Black Bahamian man,” she said.
“My brothers and sisters are half African-American – I’m just as much fighting for my family, too. It’s been a conversation I’ve been having with my family for a very long time. It was like, I can’t not join the fight. I felt compelled to do so, because it’s about me too – my Bahamian people as well, even if we don’t live here. We’re all people, and especially, we’re all Black people.”
Broughton said when she first moved to New York, she didn’t understand the plight of Black people in America as clearly as she does now.
“Being Bahamian, we think it’s not our fight, but I think it’s counterproductive because at the end of the day, we’re all Black and come from Black people.”
Broughton said one person won’t stand a chance in the fight and that she was proud to be a part of the collective community fighting for justice, which she said is not just an American thing.
Stephen Stuart, who lives in Harlem, unlike Bethell and Broughton, has not physically joined the protests. He said he took the COVID-19 global health pandemic into consideration, which he had to balance.
But Stuart said there needs to be a disruption to the system for people to listen to what Black people are saying in America.
“I think they seem to put more value on property and capitalism than on Black people and their well-being and their bodies, so it’s necessary,” Stuart said.
“I think it’s a watershed moment where this system is going to have to listen. This is a generation that has had enough. And from what I gather, they’re willing to put their bodies on the line for this.”
Stuart was a part of the generation that protested apartheid in South Africa as a university student.
“If you are a human being, if you are a citizen in any country, and, specifically, if you are a Black person, this should have some deep, deep meaning to you,” he said.
“I can guarantee you, if you jump off the plane in Miami from Nassau, and you run a red light, they don’t care if you’re Bahamian. Your fate is possibly the same, so it has nothing to do with nationality, which is why you see this thing taking off globally.”
Many Bahamians based elsewhere and in The Bahamas have also felt connected to the protests.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is closely monitoring developments in the United States through its consular officers.
“To date, we are not aware of any Bahamian that has been harmed,” the ministry said.
“Bahamians in the U.S. are advised to follow the laws, act responsibly, avoid altercations and adhere to the instructions of officials. Moreover, Bahamians in need of assistance are asked to contact the consul office nearest to them.”
The Bahamas Consulate in New York, however, went further in a statement released on Sunday.
It advised Bahamians traveling in the United States and those living there not to get involved in “political or other demonstrations under any circumstances” and urged them to avoid crowds.