Kyla Edme, Community Activist and Infectious Disease Medical Assistant
By Krista Martinelli
Community activist and Wellington resident Kyla Edme has been organizing the peaceful protests at the corner of Forest Hill Boulevard and 441 since shortly after the murder of George Floyd. However, it hasn’t been without backlash. “Oh goodness,” she says. “Countless people have tried to antagonize us, yelling racial slurs, throwing coins, throwing liquids, cursing, spraying chemicals at us, flipping the bird. Even with PBSO, our small protest with 20 people was OK, but when we tried for bigger – when we tried to join the other Okeeheelee protesters – PBSO had a giant show of force.” This included tanks and helicopters, as well as more than 60 cop cars. Edme explains that there have been peaceful protests in Boca, Boynton, Lake Worth, Riviera Beach, Jupiter and Delray Beach, where “you can see how law enforcement and the community can come together.” She says, “I don’t see why that disconnect happens in Wellington, especially when that’s what we’re asking of Wellington.”
Edme was first motivated to start protesting in Wellington when she saw a “Karen” yelling at Shane Meyers. (A “Karen” has become known as an overly concerned and somewhat entitled person). (Sorry to all of our friends named Karen!) Shane Meyers’ Tik Tok video went viral when a woman got in his face and asked him to take down his sign. He started out as the lone protester at 441 and Forest Hill. Read about the incident where this Karen asked Shane Meyers to take down his one-man protest. I talked to Shane Meyers, who commented, “I felt frustrated. I have trouble understanding how a simple message of BLM can be perceived as threatening.” (His sign said “Black Lives Fucking Matter,” which the woman also took offense with.) One week after the Karen incident, over 80 people joined Shane Meyers at the street corner protest in Wellington.
“But even if not for Shane, I would have gotten out there anyway,” says Kyla Edme. “After the incidents of Ahmaud Arbery, Amy Cooper (the bird watching incident in Central Park), and then George Floyd, enough was enough. I needed to get out there and do what I can for the cause.”
Back in 2016, Edme started a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter Alliance Palm Beach, following the murder of Corey Jones (which took place October of 2015). She was working in collaboration with an activist in Indian River County and says they were trying to merge the two groups together. The page is very active today and has over 1,000 fans.
Recently Kyle Edme sat down and chatted with Mayor Anne Gerwig. “The motivation was wanting to get out there and bring awareness and educate. In my thought, I live in Wellington, so I’m going to start in my own backyard. I wanted to ask, how can we work together?” Edme says she wanted Mayor Anne Gerwig to understand that “we’re a local, peaceful group for Wellington that just wants to see things get better and that we’re all on the same page.”
Edme has lived in Wellington for almost four years. “Yes, I have experienced direct racism with the protesting. Before that, it was not direct, more under the radar,” explains Edme. For example, in previous years, she has been stopped by PBSO for no reason. She’s also not found the warmest reception with certain neighbors. “They wanted to go inside and shut the doors when my kids and I came around. It’s subtle actions like these that are hurtful.”
We also talked about solutions for improving the police department and fighting against police brutality. “I personally feel like the whole department needs re-training. They need to incorporate additional training into what they are already learning: especially de-escalation methods. Reaching for your gun should always be the last, last resort. Racial sensitivity training needs to be a whole separate training.” She stresses that we need to not make these interactions between law enforcement and people of color so volatile. She would also like to see an outside investigation board that oversees everything – from general misconduct to the shootings that ends in fatality. I believe an entity should not be the one to investigate itself. Going further, we should have a social justice department.” In changing how we learn, Edme says law enforcement can “take it one step further and help those families who have been wronged.”
Edme, along with many activists, are frustrated with saying “Black Lives Matter” and then getting the response “All Lives Matter.” “We need to say Black Lives Matter because we can see that black lives are taken at a disproportionate rate, especially when it comes to law enforcement.” She furthers the point, saying that you can’t go and become a pilot or a doctor and just say “we have some bad apples.” “We can’t have planes crashing. We can’t have a few people die during surgery.” “People tend to just let things go when it comes to the police. I think it’s important to show our lives do matter. Our lives are being taken senselessly and taken on video and still nothing happens.”
“All lives won’t matter until black lives matter,” says Edme. “You don’t go to a march for breast cancer and go around saying “All cancers matter.” And at a birthday party, she adds, you wouldn’t say, “Well, my birthday matters too.”
“People tend to say All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter and nothing is ever said. As soon as you say Black Lives Matter, there’s always debate. These are the subtle ways that racism creeps in.”
When it comes to family, Edme has been married for 13 years and has two beautiful children (13 and 11). “I’m from New York, and my family is from New York. My husband’s side of the family is from Haiti. We love that our children have more than one culture to celebrate and embrace,” she says.
Edme works as a medical assistant with infectious disease. “My long-term goal is to become an ARNP. All this activism has me considering a different goal now,” she says, hinting that she may have a future in politics. Edme is right at the intersection of everything going on right now, focused on both the Black Lives Matter movement and fighting against COVID-19. While there has been a rise in COVID cases, Edme says that so far her hospital floors are “not full.” “We have had many successful discharges.”
I asked Edme what she would like to see in making Wellington a better place. “I personally would like to see a Diversity Committee AND more people of color on the Council (currently there are none). I would like to see more events that are focused around bringing all families, especially families of color, out to community events. I’d like to see more inclusion. I’d like to help with people who need community assistance benefits.” She names the DEO unemployment website as one of the difficult websites for people to navigate. “These portals are so difficult, as if they’re designed to deter people.” She adds that getting the Boys and Girls Club more involved in Wellington events would be a huge asset.
When it comes to the next generation (our children), Kyla Edme feels hopeful. “With what I’m seeing now, an international uprising for change, I’m very hopeful.” She cites the Parkland youth who came together after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. “That was the first glimmer of hope and now I’m seeing more of that activism in this movement. We’re doing this change for them. This is a response to decades of this happening. Enough is enough.” She adds, “I don’t want my children going through this and having the same conversations with my grandchildren.” Edme wants to see real change.
“When people ask why am I doing this, I do this because I don’t want my son to turn into the next Trayvon Martin. I also do this because I have a little girl, and I don’t want my daughter be the next Dajerria Becton (whose 15-year old body was slammed by a cop at a pool in 2015). “Unfortunately, that’s how they look at us and that’s how they interact with us. And I’m not going to stop (protesting). I don’t need my daughter to be the next Breonna Nelson Hicks, for a closer to home example, getting yelled at that ‘she doesn’t belong here.’ Until we see change, why would I give up?”
To get involved, email: firstname.lastname@example.org