Kenlyn Seard was driving along Main Street a couple of weeks ago when a group of people holding signs caught her eye.
“I saw a little girl on the corner with like 20 people,” she recalled. “They were holding ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs. There were cars going by honking their horns like they supported them. It really touched me. It’s hard to explain.”
Seard has lived in Hendersonville, where roughly 8 percent of the population is black, for 22 years.
“There’s a little more people that look like me than there used to be,” she said. “But our community - I just had not seen any activism. And maybe I wasn’t looking. But I was just proud of the fact that those people who were mostly Caucasian… they were standing up for people like me.”
Seard kept driving, but didn’t forget.
When a friend told her about a peace walk planned for June 19 in Hendersonville, Seard knew she had to go.
“I knew I needed to be a part of something because what I saw a couple of weeks ago inspired me,” she said. “I really wanted to be a part of something larger than myself.”
While protests of police brutality have ignited across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Hendersonville Peace Walk was born out of a desire to unite, not divide according to Jennifer Miller, who organized the event.
Seard was among more than 200 people who joined Miller in a silent walk along Main Street into Drakes Creek Park on Friday.
Former Hendersonville resident Gina Clark, who now lives in Madison, also heard about the walk from a friend. Clark said she wanted to participate because the walk was on Juneteenth, the day African-American slaves were officially freed in the U.S.
The country still has a ways to go before discrimination is non-existent, Clark noted.
“We’re not here to say that anyone else’s lives don’t matter,” she said. “But you don’t have to worry about people following you in the store. You don’t have to worry about people getting off the elevator just because you got on – because of the color of your skin. You have no idea what my shoes are like. So until you deal with that, you wouldn’t know what racism really feels like. I wanted to stand up and say ‘Black Lives Do Matter.’”
Miller’s neighbors Sarah and David Franks attended the walk with their four sons.
“We just wanted to stand together with them and say we want to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Sarah said. “It was about peace, about standing beside those we love - and showing our children that we can make a difference in our community.”
Her husband agreed.
“I just think it’s a shame that people are judged by the color of their skin,” he said. “It’s not right. It’s never been right. And that’s why we’re here – to let people know that we stand with them.”
Under the shade of trees in Drakes Creek Park, Miller addressed a crowd after the walk.
She and her husband Thomas, a minister at Life Church, moved to Hendersonville four years ago with their seven children, she explained.
“We were so loved, so welcomed by every person we came into contact with,” she said. “We’ve been a part of this community for four years and every experience has been good.”
Miller acknowledged that not every minority has had all positive experiences, however.
“And I don’t think it’s fair for me as a woman of color to just sit in this great community and not encourage other people to create communities just like this so that they can have the same experiences,” she said.
“Even though I’ve had the Hendersonville experience, I wanted to share that with the rest of the world today.”
Thomas Miller offered some closing remarks.
“This short journey may be over,” he said of the walk. “But our purposes and our love for one another and our drive to connect with all colors, every persuasion doesn’t end today. It’s just a first step.”