Going for a walk outside may seem like such a simple, no-brainer thing to do. You just put one foot in front of the other, right?
Unfortunately, things are a bit different when you’re a black person living in a former slave state. Going for a stroll is a lot riskier than it sounds!
And that’s the main reason why 29-year-old Shawn Marqus Dromgoole never really felt safe walking alone on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. In the back of his mind, he’s always been scared that he might not make it back home alive.
Even before the recent Goerge Floyd protests got underway, Shawn said that he’s always been worried about walking up and down the streets he grew up on.
His family has lived in the same neighborhood for 54 years, yet he still feels like all eyes are on him, as if he’s a moving target. And that’s not a good feeling at all.
He’s been stopped several times in the past just for being a man of color, so now he makes sure to take his I.D. and phone with him. But, none of those things can bring him peace of mind.
Shawn shared on social media what it’s like to fear everyday activities just because the shade of his skin is darker than those around him:
“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.”
Normally, going for a leisurely stroll with mom would be a great way to spend quality time with the family. But Shawn rang up his mom because he didn’t want to become another sad statistic.
“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.”
To drive the point home, Shawn added the hashtags #Icantbreath, #Icantsleep, #Icantwalk to his post.
But it wasn’t until the outspoken young man shared the same post on the Nextdoor app, which lets neighbors in the same area stay connected to one another, that the whole community came together.
Moments after he posted his thoughts on the app, a kind stranger offered to go for a walk with him. Before he knew it, Shawn’s solo walk soon turned into a friendship train that included a crowd of around 75 people!
This young man never expected to receive all the responses that he did, but he feels super blessed to know that there are still plenty of good people still out there. Even better, they were right there in his own neighborhood!
Shawn live-streamed his walk, and the video showing a group of virtual strangers coming together in solidarity has since gone viral.
In a later interview, he told CBS News:
“Everyone’s a neighbor. All you have to do is step off your porch – if you express yourself the world can change.”
Shawn has used his recent experience as an opportunity to spread awareness, and he’s even started a new #WeWalkWithShawn movement that’s expanded beyond his local neighborhood.
He has a dream that no one, whether young or old, black or white, dog or no dog, should ever have to walk alone.
“I want to walk for everyone who is afraid and alone.”
Shawn plans to organize community walks across the country, starting with Florida, Georgia, Cleveland, Ohio, Ferguson, Missouri, and of course Minneapolis, where the most recent tensions all started.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Shawn’s friendly neighbors to help him realize his dream of walking across the country. According to the page, all the funds will go directly towards offsetting the costs of his travel and lodging expenses.
Be sure to check out the video below to find out more about this inspiring community-led #WeWalkWithShawn movement.
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