by Camerin Mattson
Captain Amanda Keene spent Juneteenth—a day for celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S.—passing out water and face masks at a march for racial justice. “It was so hot, but so good,” she said of the sweltering day.
Captain Amanda is the corps officer in Gary-Merillville, Ind., a community that’s about 80 percent African-American. She also sits on a committee at the Merrillville School District with other faith-based leaders who were invited when the state of the schools made local leaders realize something needed to change. “It’s a great collaboration,” Captain Amanda said.
When the committee leader emailed members to let them know that a recent high school graduate was organizing the event, Captain Amanda was one of the few who responded. She called the young woman and simply asked, “How can I support you?” The woman hadn’t previously organized an event, so Captain Amanda inquired what they were doing for water for participants and garbage collection. Met with silence, she offered, “Let me take care of it.”
That day Captain Amanda, a couple staff and volunteers manned a table and passed out water, Gatorade, garbage bags, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. She walked with an estimated 200 people from the Merrillville High School parking lot to the police station, where organizers calmly stated their case to further racial justice in their community. “It was such a beautiful thing,” Captain Amanda said. “I feel better about the future now.”
“My neighbors have been dealing with injustice long before COVID and George Floyd,” she said. “This is what our neighbors eat, sleep and breathe.”
While she works diligently to serve her neighborhood through afterschool programs, a food pantry and community meals, the captain also said, “It’s not enough to hand out food and pay someone’s rent. We have to do something about systemic injustices that cause our community members to need help.”
She continued, “The Salvation Army is a community where you can come and feel safe, known, and supported. We’re here to fight with and for you.”
The organizer certainly felt that support. After the event, she texted, “Thanks for your allyship. It’s good to know you’re here to support us.”
Captain Amanda, responded, “This is what the Army looks like.”