BY WIL CREWS
A small group of individuals have held a daily vigil for racial and social justice on Toomer’s Corner in Auburn since the summer of 2020.
“We are reminding ourselves that these aren’t just things we come out to when our hearts are broken, and yes that’s good to do, but these are conversations we need to have and are willing to have on a daily basis,” said Kelli Thompson, the original founder of the group.
Thompson was the initial person plopped down by the iconic street corner in an act that was at first for self-consoling in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement.
“I sat down on the first day; it was just kind of an impulse, and needing to make sense for myself,” Thompson said. “There was always this sense of coming and going. We were all going to get fired up and then go back to our regular lives until the next big event. I just wanted to do something sustainable to stay present in between big events.”
This Saturday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m., the Toomer’s sit-in group will celebrate 1,000 days on consecutive direct action.
“Not in my wildest dreams,” Thompson said on if she ever thought the sit-in would reach 1,000 days. “I’ve said a lot along the way that it has restored my faith in community and people and loving people who are different from us.”
The group invites the community to join local advocates who have helped hold the tradition alive for more than two and a half years. Through all kinds of weather, during downtown events and even during holidays, a faithful few have stood ready for whatever may come. Those present have become a steady image in the downtown area between the hours of 5 to 7 p.m. with folks going out of their way sometimes to honk and wave and drop off tokens of appreciation to the gathered few.
Throughout the process, the Toomer’s sit-in group has become a reliable space where hatred and negativity are given no attention, where kind, respectful discourse brings together people from all types of thoughts and opinions in the community.
“We really do have a wide range of people who show up,” Thompson said. “The people there are about as diverse as you can slice it. Not only diversity in the way they look and act, but also diversity in thought.”
The Toomer’s sit-in community will host a food drive in celebration of the Feb. 25 event. Canned foods and other non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the corner for Food Bank of East Alabama. Monetary donations can be made to Auburn University College of Human Sciences Summer Sustenance Program.
For more information, contact the group on Instagram @toomerssitin, or contact Thompson at 334-663-6331.
“About every 100 days we check in with ourselves and ask, ‘Do we have another 100 days in us? Do we still see a need?’ And every 100 days it’s been ‘Yeah, there is still a need and there is still people coming,’” Thompson said.