Since May 26, 2020, communities have been coming together to protest police brutality in the United States, specifically that toward the Black community. Protests have been organized in every state in the nation.
In Flint, many peaceful protests have been, and continue to be held, to seek justice for those who have been most affected by police brutality in this country.
To gain perspective on the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, Afterschool Download editors spoke with students from the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce’s YouthQuest and TeenQuest programs.
Below, TK Thomas, a YouthQuest student at Southwestern Classical Academy, and Leah Jones, a TeenQuest graduate currently working at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint through Summer Youth Initiative, share their thoughts on the protests and why they have participated.
What is the Black Lives Matter movement?
TK Thomas: The Black Lives Matter movement is about seeking change and pursuing equality for Black lives. Right now, Black lives don’t matter to some people. We don’t see equal treatment and haven’t for over 400 years. Our national anthem says we are one nation, but currently, we are a nation divided. We have justice just for some, and we want justice for all.
Leah Jones: To me, it is about not only fighting for equality for the Black community but also educating people. It’s important to educate people so we don’t forget history, and it doesn’t repeat itself.
Why is it important for you to participate in the protests?
Thomas: People are fighting for a revolution and we are stronger when united as one. How many times do people need to shout, “I can’t breathe,” or “Hands up, don’t shoot,” before we are heard? We are fighting for joy, truth and our lives. The protests are a fight back with peace, and we have to trust and believe it will be worth it.
Jones: To know my voice is heard and that I was present there and taking a stand. I also wanted to show my peers that this was something that I stand for and that it is important to me.
What lessons have you taken from protesting?
Thomas: The protests remind us to stay strong in a society that breaks you. Many people see us as weak, but I often say we are strong; they see us as dumb, but we are intelligent.
Jones: It has shown me where people stand in our current political climate. Even people who have been silent. It has been very showing to me.
What are you concerned about?
Thomas: There are people that do not value Black people in our society. If I am stopped by police, they may not see my value. They will see my skin tone or my hair. They won’t see that I am an honor student or that I am involved with the community and my church. And they might choose to take my life.
Jones: With so much tension, there has been a rift between generations and even in households. The divide can be very concerning. It is also scary to see people become radicalized on both sides and how they take action to show how much they hate the other side.
What are you hopeful for?
Thomas: I hope we don’t have to see another Black person murdered. I hope that Black Americans will be treated with equality and humanity. I hope everything we are fighting for is seen and that the next generation doesn’t have to fight with violence but can fight with peace.
Jones: I am optimistic for my generation. We are fighting for what is right. Hopefully, the next generation will have parents who teach them what is right and we can have a better society.
What would you like to share with people?
Thomas: People should talk about what is happening with their children. Inform them about Black Lives Matter. Inform them that people don’t have the same rights as we all should have. Make sure that they are aware of the mental health problems that can come out of this: anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I wish people would talk to children about what is happening and why it is important.
Jones: I want people to know that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that your life doesn’t matter. It just means that Black people matter, too.
YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
TeenQuest and Summer Youth Initiative are made possible through the generous support of the Charles StewartMott Foundation.