(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – ‘Silence = Violence,’ ‘No Justice No Peace,’ ‘Stop Killing Us.’
Signs were held high above a sea of passionate protesters as they marched peacefully through the streets of Downtown New Philadelphia over this past weekend. Tuscarawas County resident, photographer, and mother of four, Gabby Lute was right in the middle.
“Let me start by saying that I’m a white person, so I imagine my experience at a protest, large or small, feels very different than if I were a black person,” she began. “I’m out there trying to advocate for people, with no real concept of what it’s like to live the way they do; with the fear they do.”
Gabby explained that, of course, she has natural fears that come with motherhood, and, of course, she feared things going south during the protest, but she recognized that people of color live with those kinds of fears every single day. “Every single time they go out in public, every single time that they have to encounter a police officer. To even try to fathom that renders me speechless.”
Per the coverage by Newsymom affiliate, WTUZ Radio, a group of several hundred people gathered on the square in New Philadelphia for an “I Can’t Breathe” rally to bring awareness and speak out on issues of racial disparity and social injustice. For roughly three hours protestors gathered, chanted, and took a stand.
Gabby indicated that not only did she feel morally and ethically called to join the protests, but she also felt a responsibility as a photographer to capture history in the making. “This is a point in history that may prove to be as pivotal as the civil rights era of the 1960s. And our small community, however, rare people may believe that race issues may be around here, took part in that. That’s worth documenting. That means something,” she said.
Protests have been held in cities all over the nation following the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd was pronounced dead after being detained by the police. A viral video depicts former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin holding his knee down on the back of Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleaded for help. Chauvin has been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and is facing a second-degree felony murder charge.
And when it comes to how Gabby will navigate conversations with her children about these important issues, she explained that while her two youngest children can’t possibly comprehend what’s happening right now, her two older children are starting to ask tough questions. “We’re discussing diversity and inclusion now more than ever,” she said. “I want to be a mother that teaches their children that words have power too. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword and all that. We need to create safe ways and spaces for black people to have a voice right now. There are too many well-meaning white people who say ‘let’s pass the mic and hear from our friends of color,’ but don’t make sure it’s plugged in for them.”
She added that its important activism continues when the cameras are turned off. That efforts to initiate change are ongoing outside of attention-grabbing protests. “Showing up and waving a sign isn’t where our duty to them ends, and it doesn’t have the effect is used to.” And ensuring her children understand that they are powerful enough to achieve that change will continue to be a focus for Gabby, “I want my children to recognize that they have the capability, and an obligation, to make every person feel as comfortable in every space as we do as privileged white people. You can do hard things, and sometimes the hard things are the right things.”
(Photos courtesy of Gabby Lute and Life Since You Photography)