There have been several large protests in the Hudson Valley since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, including over the weekend. But a few protestors in Dutchess County have started one of their own, in their own backyard and, so far, solely within their family.
Heather Myers holds a “Stop Racism Now” sign, standing near what is considered, for a rural hamlet anyway, a busy intersection.
“We believe that change needs to happen everywhere, including in small towns like this one,” says Myers.
“So, this is a small town. It’s a predominantly white town in rural, northern Dutchess County. How do you start conversations here?” asks Dunne.
“Well, we have been fortunate in that people have started them for us. A number of people have stopped and rolled down their windows and asked a question or started a conversation. Last weekend, a guy actually stopped and got out of his car and came and chatted with us for, I don’t know, 10 or 15 minutes, and we talked a lot about many different issues,” says Myers. “He was very focused on the political situation in our country but, we talked about systemic racism as well. He asked lots of questions. And I don’t know that we necessarily changed his mind but we were happy that he had stopped to engage.”
“Changed his mind? What was he believing in?” Dunne asks.
“I think we’ve had a couple stop who think that once the officers in Minneapolis were arrested that everybody should go home,” says Myers. “And so a lot of our conversations have been about George Floyd’s death as a sort of example of the systemic racism that exists in society, and that’s why we’re still out here protesting and will be for the foreseeable future.”
Myers stood with her daughter, Kate Bixby, who will be a junior at Bucknell University.
“There are certainly people who disagree with us. There was one woman who stopped by last weekend who said that we are causing the violence. And me and my grandmother were here at the time, and we had a lot to say to her and she had a lot to say to us, and that was, it’s ok that people disagree, and that is how it should be,” says Bixby. “But the only reason, the only way that we get people to help us effect change in this country is by educating them and making them see what’s going on, why this is systemic, why this keeps happening, why it’s not over.”
Bixby’s sign reads “Silence = Violence.”
“I guess this is one of the best ways for me, as a college student, to use my voice and effect change in a very rural, very white town,” Bixby says. “I think there’s a lot that needs to be changed, and it’s start on a very personal level, having those tough conversations with your friends, your family, your extended family who may not have the same views as you, stuff like that.”
Bixby and her family retreated from New York City to their home in Bangall, in Dutchess County, when COVID-19 took hold.
“Honestly, I think it’s best when people stop and talk to us because there are a lot of people who, I wouldn’t say don’t know what they’re talking about but, don’t have enough education to know, even form an opinion,” Bixby says. “I think it’s best when people are like, I’m just not sure, and they stop and we ask them what they think, we tell them what we think and it’s good to get that dialogue going because that’s really how you can make it more, that’s really how you can get people to listen, and do something, I guess.”
“One aspect of success for me will be if public radio stations are still interviewing people like me three months from now, six months from now, 12 months from now, that we don’t let up because I think that’s what it’s going to take to make real systemic change,” says Myers.
“Our whole family has been out here — my husband, my son, my 75-year-old mother, so it is a family affair. And we would love for some people to join us. We were just talking about making some extra signs to make it a yessable proposition,” Myers says. “So, anybody who wants to come protest with us in Bangall, New York, you are welcome.”
Across the street from the post office.