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'Her legacy': Lillie Belle Allen memorialized 51 years after her murder

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Dark storm clouds rumbled above Tuesday as  rain poured onto a crowd fervently chanting "Lillie Belle Allen." 

The group, gathered on North Newberry Street, was celebrating Allen's life. It had been 51 years since the 27-year-old was shot and killed at the train tracks just across from where the umbrella-toting crowd had gathered. 

"We honor her legacy. We honor her life — her children, and her grandchildren that she was never able to meet," event organizer Felicia Dennis announced to a crowd echoing her words. "We want to make sure that her name never dies."

Tuesday evening's march, headed by local grassroots organization Call to Action Worldwide, called on community members to march in solidarity for Allen and her family as they remembered the tragic events that occurred. 

Allen, of Aiken, South Carolina, was with family visiting York City when she drove into gang territory controlled by white teenagers, who were given ammunition by police and encouraged by officers and future Mayor Charlie Robertson, to shoot any "n—s" who strayed onto their turf.

Allen's murder, during the York race riots in the summers of 1968 and 1969, is an emotional and sensitive subject for many, including Natalie Saxon, who attended Tuesday's march with her 5-year-old daughter, Milynn.

"My emotional feelings run very deep. It's time for us to come together for this nonsense to stop," Saxon said. "I think it's important for (Milynn) to know that this is something that we must do for us so that she can have a better life."

Marchers held  "Black Lives Matter" signs while wearing face masks that read "I can't breathe" on the front, a reference to George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May.

More than 50 supporters, with signs and flags at the ready, met at Penn Park at 6 p.m. and marched through York City  to North Newberry Street.

Natalie Saxon, right, and her daughter Milynn Saxon, 5, left, both of York City, prepare to march from Penn Park to the 100 block of North Newberry Street during the Life and Legacy of Lillie Belle Allen Celebration, organized by Call to Action Worldwide, in York City, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The date marks 51 years since Lillie Belle Allen, 27, of Aiken, S.C., was shot and killed on North Newberry street during the York race riots while visiting family in York in 1969. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Drums sounded through the streets, and nearby cars honked in support. York City residents peeked out of windows  and stood in front of their doors with hands raised into fists.

"Hate is a consuming fire. It can and will destroy if you let it take over your heart," said Gladys Mosley, the youngest sister of Allen  who spoke in front of the crowd of marchers. "Lillie Belle's legacy is about love and peace and acknowledgement that we all are human beings made from one creator — and there is no difference in him."

Mosley said after Allen was killed, people took her shoes and celebrated her murder.

"We now celebrate her life, and she continues to live on in our hearts," Mosley said, as members of the crowd affirmed her statements with cheers of encouragement. "Her legacy will never be forgotten."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.