Teens who planned racism dialogue in Boston will address Charlottesville violence

After the incident in Virginia, teens who planned a racism dialogue want to ask adults with authority, "What are you going to do now?"
John Burrows of the Boston Police Department (left) and Marcell Jones participate in a previous Teen Empowerment event. Photo: Provided by The Center for Teen Empowerment

After violent displays of white nationalism in Charlottesville, teens who helped plan a dialogue about racism in Boston are undeterred in their efforts to raise their voices and encourage those with authority to take action.

 

The Center for Teen Empowerment, an organization that brings together youth and adults to work on social change, have been planning all summer an event called “Break the Binds: Youth and Adults Evolving the Movement through Performance, Dialogue and Action,” which will take place at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury Tuesday night.

 

The event is intended to engage police officers, policy makers and community leaders in conversation about racism. Now, it will also tackle the blatant displays of white supremacy that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend and may also appear in Boston this coming Saturday.

 

Taya Hopkins, 18, is a community engagement organizer with Teen Empowerment. She said the event will include group conversations and smaller conversations at individual tables with those adults in authority positions.

 

“Young people as the facilitators at each table will bring up the issue of Charlottesville, how this is happening all the time and now it’s more overtly happening, and [ask], ‘What are you going to do about it now?” she said. “People want to say that racism is over. It’s not, it's happening, it's in our faces now.”

The facilitators will talk about what steps allies can take ahead of the Boston rally if they’re a police officer, a department head or another young adult.

“We have a lot of power as youth,” Hopkins said. “We need to be heard and go out there and really talk to people about the things that are harming us in our communities — not even just in our communities, but things happening around the nation that are creeping their way into our communities — and what we can do about it instead of resorting to violence.”

At the event, Teen Empowerment members will put on a play that focuses on the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham in 1963. It will show different mindsets about activism, from a young girl who wants to protest, to her grandfather who is disheartened by how long his people have been fighting, to her brother who thinks there’s nothing he can do, so why bother.

“We’re definitely finding a way to incorporate [Charlottesville] into the play now,” Hopkins said. [At the Children’s Crusade,] students came together and made such a powerful message, just with the youth showing their faces and going out there and peacefully protesting. … That’s what we're dealing with again.”

Nate McLean-Nichols, a 19-year-old associate program coordinator at Teen Empowerment, said he hopes adults make a commitment to be active and leave the event “knowing that the work is not done by coming into the room with us and having this dialogue, the work is done by them actually going into their workplaces and spreading this idea that racism is wrong and there's work to be done around it.”

 
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