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When Haley and Emily Georgia decided to orgainize a Lansing 'March Against Police Brutality' in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, they thought that they and only a few family members would be marching from the Lansing Town Hall to Terpening Corners (the intersection between Triphammer and Peruville Roads) Sunday morning. 176 people showed up.  Despite some general threats on social media in which some local residents insinuated they would run over protesters, the rally was peaceful and without negative incident.

"We truly thought that it was going to just be our family marching up the hill, so to see the turn out that we had was beautiful and honestly quite an emotional experience," Haley says. "Listening to the two individuals who shared their stories with us was powerful and I think really sent the message that Lansing is not exempt from this conversation because IT DOES effect our community. We really wanted the march to be about elevating black voices In our community."

Click here to view the ralley in pictures.
The sisters specifically invited Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne and Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne, both of whom attended. The rally began with a brief statement by LaVigne, who reminded the crowd to be safe, wear masks and respect social distancing. He also endorced the rally, saying, "These conversations that unite against what we think is injustice. I also believe that. Let's continue to move forward together and unite as the Lansing community."

After a brief introduction by the Georgia sisters, two speakers came forward to talk about their experiences as black men.

"It’s no secret that my sister and I are white, and we really didn’t want it to just be another event where white people talked to each other about a problem they have no first hand experience in and then march around in a display of performative allyship. We are both very committed to using the privilege afforded to us by the color of our skin to try and break down and dismantle the systematic racism in this country," Haley says. "We want black voices, black businesses, black creators and black educators to be uplifted and supported. Black lives, stories, and experiences in our community and abroad more than matter, they are essential."

Steve Page (Walrad) was the first to speak of his experience growing up in Lansing. He was adopted by white parents, but even in a small town he was the focus of overt racial discrimination.

"When I was five years old, two carloads of people, pulled in front of our house and smashed our windows out," he told the crowd. "My mother ran in my bedroom and threw me under the bed. And I remember thinking my family's in danger because of me. That was the beginning of years of torment."

He recalled being chased through the woods by a mob of people who wanted to hurt him, and people who saved him from that.

"I guess I became numb to it became normal. When I was about well years old people started calling me 'half-breed' -- and that was okay because it was better than being called 'nigger'. I just hope that the children who are going to the school don't make the same mistakes. We have to change. And the only we can do that is through love and tolerance."

He said he also has a lot of great memories of growing up in Lansing, and he believes most people don't feel prejudiced.

Next Darius Cauthen stepped up to tell of moving here from North Carolina to escape being singled out because he is black.

"We moved here just so we could get away from some of that racism that was down there," he said. "I would get pulled over and, even arrested solely because I was an African American with maybe two or three African Americans in the car. I heard some stories from my father about how he and my uncle got abused and beaten up in a bar. I don't have hate towards police officers or anything like that. I have law enforcement in my family. My message is that we want to be equal to everybody."

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All the speakers acknowledged that there are many good police officers, and Sheriff Osborne was present to show his solidarity with all citizens.

"I stand with Lansing and all of Tompkins County against racism," Osborne says. "I thought the rally was well organized and it was an honor to be invited. Not once did I feel like anyone there was anti-police, but felt like participants were there to recognize a larger societal problem. It made me proud to be a resident of Lansing."

Emily read a long list of names of individuals who have been killed by police officers, followed by eight minutes and 49 seconds of silence to honor them. The sisters say the list, recently posted by NPR, is by no means exhaustive.

Finally the crowd marched along Auburn Road to the intersection, where they dispersed to the four corners and urged passing motorists to honk their horns to show support for the end of police brutality and racism.

$105 in donations were collected and split between The Bail Project and Black Lives Matter. The Geogias strongly encouraged voter registration, and Haley says she plans to organize some 'fun events' over the summer to get new and young voters to register.

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She stresses that it is important that the rally not just be a feel-good one-off event, and hopes it will motivate those who attended and the whole community to continuously work to solve the social problems that

"I urge everyone to keep the conversation going, don’t let the march on Sunday be the last conversation Lansing has about this," she says. "Everyone needs to commit to doing 'the work'. Educate yourself (I highly recommend the book 'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehis Coates, it completely changed my world view) , call out and re-educate people who share and say racist things, re-evaluate your own privileges and biases (we all have them), support black business (there are tons of lists online of black owned business in the Ithaca area), pressure your local leaders to take actually make change, donate to foundations and groups doing the work, and finally don’t stop fighting. The analogy was made at the march to think about your one pebble making a ripple. Keep throwing your pebbles."