With racial tensions rising in our country due to the George Floyd incident, people are fearing for their lives and are too scared to even leave their houses.
Shawn Dromgoole’s family has lived on the same corner in the same neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, for the last 54 years, but the 29-year-old black man is too scared of walking down the streets he has walked all his life.
He didn’t feel at home or even safe in his own community and was worried about what would happen if one of his white neighbors saw him, didn’t recognize him, and called the cops.
George Floyd died on May 25 after he was arrested by Minneapolis police and an officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes which was recorded by a bystander on their cellphone.
Dromgoole shared on facebook and on the app connecting neighborhoods, Nextdoor, he wrote about “what was on my heart,” he said. “I’m afraid to walk,” Dromgoole wrote.
“Yesterday I wanted to walk around my neighborhood but the fear of not returning home to my family alive kept me on my front porch,” he wrote. “Today I wanted to walk again and I could not make it off the porch. Then I called my mother, Lynetra, and she said she would walk with (me). I still kept my ID on me and my phone in my hand but I walked.”
Before posting, Dromgoole said he didn’t like Nextdoor because of the messages he saw on it, “suspicious black men walking in the neighborhood,” he said. “It was terrifying to me. … I’m like, ‘These people hate me in this neighborhood.'”
He added that his neighborhood has been gentrifying in recent years and that he’s been stopped by police for “walking while black” before. “It’s not a new reality,” he explained.
But the reaction he got was not what he expected, he said the day it went up, 150 strangers offered to walk with him, apologizing for making him feel scared and thanking him for his honesty.
He asked the people to meet him in the parking or at a restaurant and around 75 people met up with him and they all went for a stroll together. “It was such an amazing feeling,” Dromgoole recalled. “My neighbors were behind me, and they had my back. That was my reaction. I’m still dumbfounded by all the support.”
Now Dromgoole is planning to host another group walk through his neighborhood this Thursday. “I just want to walk, not parade, not march,” he said.
“I remember just walking as a kid. In a world that’s so complicated with technology and things, sometimes you just need to walk off your front porch and say hey to your neighbor,” Dromgoole said.