Let’s Talk Race: Keyedrya Jacobs says ‘showing up means more than holding a sign’

  • Greenfield resident Keyedrya Jacobs says “showing up means more than holding a sign or marching. It means running for town council or the selectboard, or calling local police and talking with them about issues and concerns. It means finding work that compliments your values. It means doing something more.” STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield resident Keyedrya Jacobs says “the amount of work that needs to be done (to confront racism) seems overwhelming, but it has to be done. The easiest place to start is by everyone educating themselves.” STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield resident Keyedrya Jacobs, 32, spoke at a recent protest on the Greenfield Common regarding defunding the police. Jacobs says that while she believes the Greenfield Police Department is not terrible, the nation’s police system, in general, is. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2020 6:07:03 PM

Editor’s Note: This week, the Greenfield Recorder has dedicated a series to sharing the stories of local people of color and their experiences with racism and prejudice. The first story can be found in Monday’s paper. Look for additional stories throughout the week.

GREENFIELD — Keyedrya Jacobs says she “very much supports” all aspects of the movement for racial justice and changing the police system that arose after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.

“I support the protests, riots, all of it,” the Greenfield resident said. “They all have their job.”

She said growing up Black was never easy, but it never stopped her from doing what she believed was right.

“I show up,” she said, “and showing up means more than holding a sign or marching. It means running for town council or the selectboard, or calling local police and talking with them about issues and concerns. It means finding work that compliments your values. It means doing something more.”

Jacobs recently took a job with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) and Communities That Care. She will be working on social justice issues in local schools in the fall.

“You can’t just say you want something done, you have to do it,” she said.

The 32-year-old grew up in the Chicopee and Springfield area. She is raising three sons under the age of 10 in Greenfield with her partner.

“I put out a call to action to people who know and love me,” she said. “I have three sons, three brothers and a partner who is a Black man. I have a lot at stake. We need people to help attack this problem of racism and police brutality.”

Jacobs said while she believes the Greenfield Police Department is not terrible, the nation’s police system, in general, is.

“Why don’t people want to serve on their own police departments?” she asked. “Maybe we should examine that.”

She said she has had productive conversations with Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr.

“It’s great that in such a small city you can meet your police chief in the grocery story and have a conversation with him,” she said.

As she watches her children grow bigger and get stronger every day, especially her 9-year-old son — she also has twin infant sons — Jacobs worries about what they’ll face in the future and realizes it will be a daily battle for her, her sons and her partner.

“I want my sons to be able to walk to school or the store and not have to worry,” she said. “I want to know they’ll come home.”

Jacobs moved to Greenfield when she was pregnant with her first son.

“My mom had lived in Greenfield for three years at that time,” she said. “She moved here because it was a predominantly white area and she wanted more opportunities, better chances. When I got pregnant, I asked if I could move back home — home was where she was. She said ‘yes,’ and I decided to stay here and raise my children.”

Jacobs said it is everyone’s responsibility, no matter their color, to make sure everyone has the same opportunities and is treated fairly, and everyone should evaluate and re-evaluate what they are doing about it. Holding a sign or marching or gathering on a town common, she said, is the first step, but people need to do much more, and those with privilege need to know how to use that privilege to enact change.

“I’d like to see more local people become police officers and infiltrate systems at a local level,” she said. “We need people who understand that the system must change. That’s not going to happen overnight, maybe not in the next five years, but we have to start and make it happen for the future.”

Jacobs recently participated in a Black Lives Matter rally on the common in downtown Greenfield. She said she was disheartened to hear people push back at City Council Vice President Otis Wheeler, who supported their efforts.

“He’s the guy who felt he needed to do something, and I felt badly that people came at him because he’s part of Greenfield government,” she said. “He felt the call. He’s willing to talk about real issues. We have to fight and listen. Our conversations have to reflect the community, all of the community. White liberals need to remember there’s always more to do, the fight is never over.”

Jacobs said she’d like people to understand that social justice work, any work, is difficult, but worth it.

“I had to go back to work when my twins were 3 months old,” she said. “I just started at the FRCOG, and I would have loved to be a stay-at-home mom, but I needed to do this. All of us can do what needs to be done, even if we don’t like it. When you have to, you do it. When it’s important, you do it. No excuses.

“When I first started at the FRCOG a few weeks ago, I looked around and saw a room full of white people, and it was uncomfortable at first, but I got through it,” Jacobs continued. “We all can do the hard things.”

Jacobs has seen people of all colors step up in the fight for social justice like she never expected. She said she hopes the movement continues until real change is accomplished. She said she can’t wait to work with students in county schools and help in the effort to afford youths of color a better and more well-rounded experience.

“We’re all in this together,” she said. “The amount of work that needs to be done seems overwhelming, but it has to be done. The easiest place to start is by everyone educating themselves.”

Jacobs suggested picking up a book by a Black author, supporting Black voices and supporting the movement.

“Black authors have been trying to educate people forever,” she said.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.



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