Panola College student Sydney Burris has seen how protesting for an end to racially-unjust systems can bring about change.

Her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has seen 100-plus days of Black Lives Matter protests — and she lives about 30 miles north of Kenosha, which has seen protests against police brutality in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.

Burris says real change has been made from their actions. And she wants to see the same here.

“Black lives matter. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter, and I feel like it’s time for the county to wake up,” she said. “Because in a small town, it’s hard. You’re in your own bubble in a small town. You really don’t notice the problems outside of your community, and they need to be aware. Because once more people are aware, you can make change.”

Burris was one of a handful of Panola College students, many of them student athletes, who held a Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday. The group gathered at the pony statue on the northwest end of campus before hopping in cars and driving through town, horns honking and “Black Lives Matter” signs hanging out of the window.

They received support from passers-by and slowed down traffic around the Square — all the while hoping their message would raise awareness that racism is still an issue today.

“We’re trying to make some noise, so hopefully I think if they see us starting, eventually people will join,” Burris said.

Burris says she’s only been here for a couple of weeks, but she and her friends have already been racially-profiled while driving. Other students at the protest had similar concerns.

Destiny Burton, a student originally from Dallas, talked about being watched as a potential shoplifter as soon as she walks into stores, and she said racism is still an issue today even as people think it’s not a problem — even in communities like Panola County.

“Basically I feel like if we can get little communities like this to hear our demands for injustice... I feel like if we can start with little communities like this, then we can build up to our nation and make it bigger,” she said. “Just bringing the knowledge to people that are just like in their little towns that feel like this doesn’t affect them or this doesn’t require their attention, but it really does. We’re here to show them that it does, that it matters.”


Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.