KITCHENER -- As I laid my head down after being at the KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter, I kept hearing Kerann Hutchinson’s voice in my head.

“This feels a little different now.”

He was one of the last protesters to leave.

He was standing alone, holding a bright, meticulously-made cardboard sign bordered with bold green painters tape.

A black fist was spray painted at the bottom.  On top of the fist, perfectly cut-and-placed letters spelled out “#BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

But it was Hutchinson’s eyes that stood out to me. He looked like he was in awe of what had just happened.

“I’m sticking around cause I’m just not ready to go yet,” said Hutchinson. “I just want to have my sign out and just stand and observe the moment.”

What a moment it was.

Thousands of people were in unison for more than two hours for the Black Lives Matter movement. Thousands chanted, cheered, and intently listened.

Not only did the speakers remind the crowd of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

They also highlighted a racially-motivated killing that happened at Victoria Park, just a few hundred metres from where we were standing. 

In 2001, 21-year-old Howard Joel Munroe was fatally beaten and stabbed by members of a white street gang.

Two men were convicted of murder. A third was convicted of manslaughter.

Being reminded of that crime was like a punch in the gut that violent, racist attacks have happened in Canada, in Ontario, and right here in Kitchener. 

But for Black people in Kitchener like Hutchinson, they don’t need the reminders. They want a better future.

“I don’t want my kids to grow up in the same environment, in the same fear that we had to grow up in,” he said.

“From just the micro-aggressions. From having to change your behaviour around people. From walking at night. To just being aware of what’s around you, trying to keep your distance. You know? Just because you know how people feel when they see you in the dark especially. So stuff like that, it shouldn’t have to be that way.”

Hutchinson, like millions of protestors around the world, knows he’s risking being infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to affect systemic change to end anti-Black racism. He says it’s worth it, because the current movement is giving him and others a bit of hope.

“It does and it doesn’t because we’ve seen this before. And this feels a little different now,” he says.

“I hope that people take the message and make a change. Make a change for all of us.”