An official Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter formed in Marion earlier this month, and its first initiative, a canned food and school supply drive, began Monday.

“(The food drive) is just a good way to start getting out there,” said Azira Fisher, a member of the BLM Marion leadership team. “It is something that benefits not only a single group in Marion, but everybody.”

According to Fisher, the food drive represents what BLM tries to do, but there are many misconceptions about the group’s mission.

“Our ultimate goal is uplifting the lives of and addressing the injustices against black people and, by extension, the whole community,” said lead organizer Torri Williams. “When we say the whole community, we mean everyone.”

When the team met to discuss ways to get involved in the community, Williams said the group wanted to focus on community needs, racial injustice and coalition building.

“We stand for community care,” Williams said.

The group wanted to help people in the community who need food, especially those struggling financially due to the pandemic.

“... Especially in a community like Marion where we already have a high rate of childhood poverty,” Williams said. “So from there, we decided to do a food drive.”

The group is also collecting school supplies and masks for kids returning to school.

So far, Williams said the amount of donated canned goods has not been what she wanted it to be, although they have received school supplies from local individuals and a church.

The food drive will continue for about another two weeks, Williams said.

Items can be dropped in the bin outside the Community School of the Arts (CSA) at 305 S. Adams St. in Marion during open hours.

“CSA has been awesome. They have had Black Lives Matter signs on their windows since we had our march in June,” Williams said. “It’s nice to see a business willing not just to put out a sign but also put their support in action.”

When Williams asked Executive Director Katie Morgan if CSA would host a bin, Morgan said it was an easy yes.

“We’re an organization that serves students in Grant County, so it seems to us to be meeting our mission, too,” Morgan said. “We’re serving students of color, and we want to see a thriving community.”

As an arts organization, Morgan said it is essential that CSA is a safe space for people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, differing abilities, levels of education and socioeconomic statuses.

“How can we really inspire our youth to be free to create in a safe space if we were not creating a safe space for every single student that walks through these doors?” Morgan said. “Art cannot be truly free unless you’ve created a safe space for everyone to create.”

Supporting BLM creates a safe space for students at CSA, Morgan said.

The group is looking for other businesses to host drop off sites.

To other businesses in the community, Morgan said, “What is it hurting to provide an opportunity for community members to donate canned goods and school supplies for our community?”

BLM Marion plans to host educational events regarding voter registration and the BLM organization’s goals in the future.

For more information and to host a bin, follow or contact Black Lives Matter Marion on Facebook.

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