It’s 2020, And I Had to Leave My Home Because of the KKK
Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members during a rally on August 31, 2019. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s 2020, And I Had to Leave My Home Because of the KKK

One Black activist’s modern-day nightmare

In July of last year, the Ku Klux Klan had a parade up the street from my house in Hanover County, Virginia. They marched for at least an hour and a half, 10 to 15 White males walking around in white hoods, carrying banners and signs promoting their hate. Some of them wore Klan T-shirts, fatigues, and shades and were armed to the teeth, trying to recruit people. They even had a kid out there with a little white hood on — standing in front of a courthouse, of all places.

I was born and raised in Richmond. When I was a kid, I used to see pictures and hear stories about the Klan, and I’d think, “That’s back in the day. That shit is dead now,” or, “That’s happening in another state, not here.” We didn’t have to deal with much racism, other than somebody saying “nigger” at school. But here we are, thinking we made some progress under the Obama administration, and we get this racist, lying motherfucker in office. Everything is just coming out now — this current administration has emboldened these racists. We watched the city evolve to seeing racist graffiti and “KKK” spray-painted here and there.

Two Februarys ago, me, my fiancée, and my little man — he’s 18 — made the mistake of moving to the outskirts. That was worse than the racism we experienced in Richmond.

When we entered the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Hanover County — I call it Klanover — I told my shorty I felt uncomfortable. In Klanover, you see more MAGA hats than Black people; every other house has a Confederate flag in the backyard or on the front porch. If you’re a person of color, everybody looks at you like you don’t belong.

Soon, it felt like we were being targeted because we’re Black. Rednecks in pickup trucks would roll by, and somebody would scream “Nigger!” out the window and speed off. The Klan was leaving pamphlets in people’s mailboxes. One of my neighbors called the police to my house, trying to get me hemmed up. They said there was illegal activity, which was totally false. When the cops got to my residence, they said, “We’ve been watching your house for two months.” I feel like everybody was working together, from the neighbors to the police to the Klan.

My little man had questions: “Are these people going to try to kill me? Do you think I might get lynched? Do I gotta worry about the same thing that happened to Emmett Till happening to me?”

My little man went to Lee-Davis High School — the school that put up a fight about changing its name because of the whole Confederacy thing — and there were instances where he was called the N-word. We’d tell him how to handle it, but to witness the Klan right around the corner from our house was another level.

Back in the day, they did the hood thing — now they just throw on a robe and a white pointy hat that doesn’t really cover their whole face. They don’t even hide. To develop into a man and witness firsthand the shit I used to hear about when I was nine, 10 years old? Come on, man.

The final straw was the recruiting rally. A parade of evil. They even offered a number for people to call! It was hard to drum up immediate neighborhood support. There weren’t any people trying to stand up — maybe a few taking pictures for social media.

The police didn’t shut the rally down. That’s the part that really fucked with me. If you see a bunch of Black people walking around with big-ass pro-Black signs, afros, sunglasses, guns — Black Panther, Huey Newton shit — you know the police are going to shut that shit down.

I was the only voice speaking out. There were some other people of color who attended a meeting in the area, but not many. Klanover government officials showed no concern. It was pretty much, “Look, these people have the right to express their freedom of speech.” Klan shit ain’t freedom of speech. It’s evil. I don’t trust none of these people. The same people in these government positions and behind that badge in Hanover are the same motherfuckers under these white hoods. The Klan still operates in America because the Klan is America.

My little man had questions: “Are these people going to try to kill me? Do you think I might get lynched? Do I gotta worry about the same thing that happened to Emmett Till happening to me?” It broke my heart.

Nobody should be around that hate. None of my people. Not only is it traumatizing to the young’uns who can’t comprehend it, but it also fucks with you as a Black man. I’m sure it fucked with my shorty as a Black woman. And I’m pro-Black. Everything I do, I make moves to uplift and educate my people. I’ve been heavy in activism since 2001, doing it big for my community, for my race, for the culture.

I know me: My voice is going to get louder and louder to the point where we’re going to have a problem if nothing changes, especially if something endangers mine. I felt like I’d be a target staying in that environment. And that’s something I didn’t want my family to have to endure. I can’t have my little man feeling like he’s going to get lynched one day.

There’s no excuse for any Black man to have to leave his home because of Ku Klux Klan activity. That should not be going on in 2020. But the best decision was to pack up, leave my memories behind, and start over in an environment that was more suitable for a pro-Black way of living. It hit my pockets, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

We tried to find something that wasn’t too inner city but still on the outskirts. We moved to Glen Allen, Virginia — more of a diverse, relaxed environment. I step out on my porch, I’m looking at my brothers and sisters. Three neighbors across the street, all Black. I feel comfortable now. Don’t get me wrong: I know racists still walk among us. But in the environment that we moved to now, they hide it better.

—As told to John Kennedy