As a professional singer and actress, Marlaina Powell of Montclair considers herself thick-skinned. Through meeting resistance over career choice from friends and family, Marlaina has learned to defend herself and is proud to be part of a community of artists accustomed to speaking out on matters of social justice. Although Marlaina supports the Women’s March, she did not feel compelled to attend. “Black people are used to marching. We’ve been marching since the 50s. We’ve been doing this work and we’ve been doing it alone in large part.” She feels that we cannot “begin to deal with sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination until we begin to tackle racism.” Marlaina finds that even a progressive town like Montclair has big strides to make with integration. Diversity and the magnet school system is what drew Marlaina and her husband to Montclair 5 years ago. They were surprised to discover that their daughter was the only black girl in her class, and was 1 of only 8 black children in her grade at Watchung Elementary School. The lack of black peers along with little diversity in the staff (only 2 black teachers in the school), led them to switch their daughter to Hillside. It was crucial that her daughters’ role models included black educators. As a PTA member, Marlaina fights for racial equality by pushing such actions as diversity training for staff. “I want the teachers to see these little brown faces the same way they see the white faces. They all have potential. Just because one is born brown doesn’t mean he is inherently less intelligent.”  Revealing the underbelly of racism starts with us, in our families and in our schools. She asks that we keep an open dialogue with our friends and family, that we have the uncomfortable conversations which lead to more understanding, and that we work to make friends from different races, modeling for our children to do the same. She pleads that we continue marching when racial injustice strikes another Tamir Rice. “What I want more than anything else: I want black boys, black children, to be viewed the same way that white children are.”