Neighbors join man afraid to walk alone near his own home

Katie Smith

In a heartbreaking social media post, a black man from Nashville shared his fears of walking alone in his own neighborhood. The reality is, even though Shawn Dromgoole's family has lived there for 54 years, he's afraid to walk around for fear of not returning home — just because of the color of his skin.

"Yesterday I wanted to walk around my neighborhood but The fear of not returning home to my family alive kept me on my front porch," Dromgoole wrote in a Facebook post. "Today I wanted to walk again and I could not make it off the porch. Then I called my mother Lynetra and she said she would walk with." He added the hashtags #Icantbreath, #Icantsleep, #Icantwalk.

He also shared the post on the Nextdoor app, which allows neighbors to stay connected and share information. Almost immediately after posting it, Dromgoole got a response — someone offered to walk with him. Then more replies started coming in, one after another, he told CBS News. In all, about 75 people stepped up to walk with him, he said.

The 29-year-old said he never expected this, but he feels blessed and honored to have received the response he did. Last Thursday, he live streamed the flood of neighbors walking along with him in a show of solidarity, and the video has gone viral. 

"My mom's going to cry," he told the neighbors who walked with him. 

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Shawn Dromgoole

Now, Dromgoole is planning another community walk for this Thursday, and he's hoping even more people to turn up.

While his social media posts led to a reaffirming display of neighborly outreach, Dromgoole said he was just sharing what was in his heart: the fear that because he's a black man, he might get stopped while walking. 

While the death of George Floyd in police custody and the protests that followed have shined a national spotlight on racial injustice, for Dromgoole this concern is nothing new. He said he's always been worried about walking around his neighborhood. He said he's been stopped before, just because of the way he looks, and so he always carries his ID and phone with him. 

Other people in his neighborhood might not know what it's like to be in his skin, but he's hoping to change that. 

Dromgoole now wants to organize walks in Florida neighborhood where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012,  and the Georgia neighborhood where 25-year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed earlier this year, in hopes of spreading his message to other communities. 

"I want to walk for everyone who is afraid and alone," Dromgoole told CBS News.

"Everyone's a neighbor — all you have to do is step off your porch — if you express yourself the world can change," he added. 

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