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“There is no normal after this:” Local youth leaders address #BLM movement

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Five of Madison’s young leaders participated in a discussion about youth-led protests for the Real Talk Black Youth Summit last Wednesday.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to lift up the voices of young people in our community so Boys and Girls Club is partnering with Madison365 to be able to do that,” President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County Michael Johnson said.

About two dozen young people participated in the three sessions of the summit. Madison365 Founder, CEO, and Publisher Henry Sanders said this was the fourth virtual town hall the organization held within recent weeks following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

“I think a lot of the youth my age, we were the generation that saw Tony Robinson, that saw Philando Castille, that saw Tamir Rice and now we’re seeing George Floyd and we’re constantly being told there’s going to be change happening, that there’s legislative change happening but we don’t see anything happening at all,” Edgewood College junior Zenab Nafid said. 

She said promises of change feel more like a smokescreen rather than actual progress. Zenab, the daughter of first generation immigrants, studies Pre Law and plans to help fight against mass incarceration. She’s hoping Congress passes a law that criminalizes the killing of unarmed Black people. 

“There is no normal after this. There needs to be a new normal where we can be comfortable walking every day,” Edgewood College graduate Brooklyn Dobe said.

She hopes Black communities will have more resources including mental health services and unarmed security equip to resolve issues. Zenab said law enforcement agencies should have more training and/or social service degree requirements.

“I do believe in defunding the police and allocating that money into the community,” 24-year-old Madison native Alex Booker said.

He believes this funding should be focused on community policing and restorative justice practices. Booker said communities can find other ways, other methods to feel safe rather than feeling the need to have police present at all times. He also said police shootings are just at the forefront of many issues facing Black communities.

“The entire system is set up to keep us under and keep us suppressed,” activist and former Madison West Black Student Union President Noah Anderson said.

He explained Black people cannot move forward without economic empowerment and building generational wealth. Dobe mentioned she plans on starting a business using her art to help Black people. She just earned her bachelor’s degree in art therapy and participated in the State Street murals in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“People need that financial support. That’s something white communities have already and that they tie into, helping their youth get internships in high school before they even think of what they want to do in college,” Booker said. 

Johnson said he would invest $1,000 into Dobe’s art therapy venture. In addition, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County raised $10,000 to support ideas from young people. The organization is also employing young people during the pandemic.