SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – If there is a rally or protest happening in the Conejo Valley area, it's very likely that you'll see Jon Cummings in attendance. Whether it's about politics, climate change, or human rights, Cummings is usually out there with a megaphone or a sign championing the cause.
These days, the cause that he's deeply committed to is Black Lives Matter.
“The murder of George Floyd obviously sparked something in white people that made them realize we need to get involved now. We cannot sit on the sidelines anymore,” Cummings said.
Although white people have been part of the Black freedom struggle since the days of underground railroad, their level of participation in the Black Lives Matter movement has surprised many people. But there have been mixed reactions from Black people.
Some have questioned why white people are just joining the cause now, or feel this may just be a phase. While others welcome the support and appreciate finally having racism and violence against Black people acknowledged en mass.
Samantha Wright-Williams was moved to tears to find so many white allies in her community willing to protest for Black Lives Matter.
“I appreciate you. You guys give me hope”, she said, tearfully speaking to a group of people who gathered for a BLM rally.
“There were a number of Black protesters who came out and said we have no idea that you white people were here and cared," Cummings said.
He is now using his experience and expertise with public rallies to help up and coming activists in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I don't want to get in their way. But I do want to support them. I want to help them organize,” he said.
He recently helped to get the word out for two events in Simi Valley that were organized by 18-year-old, Mikiiya Foster.
One was a protest on June 6, and the other was the first-ever public Juneteenth event held in Ventura County.
Cummings' goal is to help nurture new Black leaders like Foster and gather support for their message.
“This is not the time for white people to be leading. It's the time for white people to be listening and to help,” Cummings said.
On his phone were photos from various BLM events he’s attended in recent weeks in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, and Simi Valley. One of them is a shot of him in a crowd of hundreds of people who are all on one knee at a solidarity rally for George Floyd.
Being an ally in the fight against racism, violence and injustice has brought people like Cummings to their knees. But he says being in solidarity is the only way to bring change that matters.