At Black Lives Matter rally in Shirley, celebration and a call for action


When planning her first peaceful rally to celebrate minority businesses and culture, 20-year-old activist Mary Jones, of Shirley, wanted more than flags and chants.

“I have a lot of friends that just opened up their businesses, so I was like, ‘Let me let the community put money back into the community,” Jones said.

Half a dozen businesses ran by people of color set up tables to sell clothing, jewelry and beauty products at the corner of Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway, where several demonstrations have been held since Black Lives Matter protests increased nationwide this summer.

More than 100 people gathered to also celebrate the projected win of Joe Biden as the next president and called for his incoming administration to make good on promises to help put an end to racial injustice.

“We must now hold our elected officials accountable,” a speaker said to the group huddled around her. “We voted him in, and now we must expect him to do what he said he was going to do to.”

After the sunset, the demonstrators marched down Montauk Highway for women and Black lives.

Jones, who recently started World Changers Women Unite, which promotes women’s marches on Long Island, said she was nervous about organizing her first event, but was compelled to be the change in her community.

“There’s strongholds in the city. There’s strongholds in Nassau County. But there’s no really big strongholds in Suffolk County,” she said. “I felt it was my obligation, it was my duty as a Black woman that feels so passionate about this movement to make change in my hometown.”

Jones’ friends, including Brenda Yangali, who runs Graciela Dreams, an apparel line that promotes love and anti-racism, were happy to set up shop and support the event.

“I feel like it’s definitely necessary to have more events like this — people coming together supporting, uplifting women of color,” Yangali, 26, of Valley Stream, said.

Across the makeshift marketplace was Imani Freeman, who runs Bliss Galore, her online shop for homemade, organic beauty products while attending high school.

Freeman, 17, of Ridge, said starting her shop was her way of giving back to her community.

“I wanted to find a way to make money, and plus help with all the fundraisers people were having for all the stuff that’s happening with police brutality and I wanted to like, give back. Whatever I make, I give most of it back to other Black-owned businesses.”

Midway through the event, a confrontation arose between some of the protesters lining the sidewalk and a man passing them with his cell phone, filming them and calling them names, according to witnesses.

“Don’t react to these fools,” shouted Kurt Kronemberg into a megaphone. “We’re not here for nonsense.”

Kronemberg, 61, of Bay Shore, was one of two NYCLU protest monitors present at the event. The activist of 30 years said he is proud that peaceful protests have become frequent on Long Island. “It’s DC, Baltimore, everywhere else,” he said. “But finally we got a movement on Long Island.”

He said yesterday marked the 50th protest he attended on Long Island.

In addition to the various Black Lives Matter flags typically seen at the Shirley corner, a half dozen protesters waved Biden-Harris flags. Yesterday’s event came the day after Kamala Harris became the first woman of color named Vice President-elect.

Equisha Green, vice president of Team Stand With, a nonprofit that fights against discrimination, said she was happy when she heard the news regarding Kamala Harris.

“It just helps us to strengthen our children, it also just helps us to think bigger and dream bigger and not give up. It’s definitely the best news I’ve gotten all year.”