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Local Black Lives organizer seeks change and security for black community

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Hana Hawthorne

Hana Hawthorne, 20, from Crofton has organized two protests advocating for police reform and social justice for the African American community, both of which brought hundreds of people onto the roads of the Crofton-Gambrills area.

Hawthorne is in favor of change that can be made through legislation such as body cameras for police, civilian review boards with subpoena power, bias education in public schools, and economic and social empowerment for black communities. But she also sees much of the solution to racial injustice as residents simply showing support for the cause and a willingness to openly discuss the issues surrounding it.

“I’ve been telling people that we need to be comfortable having uncomfortable conversations because that’s so important,” Hawthorne said. “How else are we going to share our knowledge? How else are we going to talk about our views and get this stuff out there?

Her initial motivation to start the local protests however was to show the African-American community it is no longer alone in the call for change.

“I wanted to start something here because I want black people in this neighborhood, in this community to feel safe, and I want them to feel supported by their fellow neighbors,” she said.

Hawthorne is biracial and a student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s lived most of her life in the Crofton area. Racial justice is something she’s been interested in for some time now. At her school she is involved with both the Black Student Union and the university’s center for race, ethnicity and diversity education.

“I have always been passionate about this,” she said. “I've actually been trying to figure out what I want to do in the future career-wise, and I have I have kind of wanted it to be in this area or field. I'm kind of just seeing where this takes me, but I have always been passionate about this.”

Hawthorne said she experienced racism first hand during her time in high school with other students using the N-word and saying “not-great things”.

She has received much support from her family. Her mother and step-father. Andrea and Neal Kursban have been supportive of her work, as has her father Roland Hawthorne.

“My mom's always pushed me to be to follow my passion and wherever that takes me, and speak out against things that I think are wrong,” she said. “And so that really helped motivate me to do this. You know, I've gotten a lot of support from my parents on this which is pretty great.”

She also has gotten support from friends. Two other people in particular, have also helped her to organize the protest—her brother Jacob Hawthorne and friend Elizabeth Beairsto,

Hana Hawthorne recognized that her generation’s tolerance and need for change regarding racial injustice may be more intense than past generations. She thought that might be because of one simple reason—they have more to lose if it carries on into the future with them.

“I think people are just tired and angry,” she said. “I think my generation is just more motivated to get out there. I don't really know. But I think it's hard. We have to grow. We have to live in this world. We have to raise our kids in this world. And I don't want to do that. I'm not having kids anytime soon. But if I was, I would not want to raise them in the world right now. It’s a pretty terrible place for black people at the moment. So, you know, I think we recognize that this is our life, our world we live in, and we want to change it.”

She also started a private Facebook Group, “Black Lives and Allies of Anne Arundel County” which, as of June 13 had 1.234 members. She says it exists to serve as a safe space for people who agree with the racial justice movement where they won’t have to worry about people who typically disagree with those views.

The group has had posts both advocating for black-owned businesses and also a creation of a list boycotting businesses that do not support the movement.

“I think it's great,” Hawthorne said. “Supporting black-owned businesses is very important. You know, after all these protests and everything, and everything dies down, you we need to support the black community. And that's one way to do that. And then boycotting. I think that’s just a no-brainer.”

Asked about how it should be determined that a business is worthy of boycotting Hannah referred to businesses that were only supportive of the “All Lives Matter” argument, or ones that would only support police alone, or that appeared openly racist.

“The ones that that we should be boycotting, they're the ones that are very upfront about you know, all lives matter, supporting only the police and saying just racist things,” she said. “You know, I think it's really important to watch for that. Because we really don't need that in our world right now.”

Hawthorne expects to be organizing at least two more protests in the future. One events she is hoping to organize would require her to obtain a permit, which she has not yet been able to do.

As for the movement at large, she said racism in America has been a problem for centuries, but now is the time for it to change for the better. Hawthorne and hundreds of others in the community have been willing to back up that viewpoint by putting their feet and voices on the streets to demand change.

“I hope that it gets a little better meaning we see some justice,” she said. “We see black people not have to be so terrified of, you know, stepping out of their house or just living life. I think that would be pretty amazing to see because it's been over 400 years, black people basically suffering.”