Twenty-year-old nursing student Jana White had never organized a march or a protest , but after seeing the movement against police brutality erupt across the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, she felt inspired.
“I wanted to create a safe space for the Black community to vocalize and acknowledge the pain and the frustration that we’re all feeling,” said White, of Mays Landing. “And I also wanted it to be a place where allied communities can come and listen and learn so they can understand exactly how their voices can help, too.”
From the Greensboro sit-ins during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to 2018’s gun control movement in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings, youth have played a significant role in organizing and promoting social movements throughout the past century.
Since Floyd’s death, several of the protests, marches and rallies in South Jersey have been planned by people under the age of 25 who say they are the future and their voices need to be heard. It’s not just organizing large marches; young people from all over the region are finding ways to stay involved by participating in youth forums, sharing original poetry and artwork inspired by the movement, and even standing alone on a bridge holding a sign.
GALLOWAY — Two local groups protested Sunday at the Galloway Municipal Complex against polic…
“More than anything, what I really wanted was to get the community together and really vocalize that change starts with us,” said White, a 2018 Oakcrest High School graduate and rising junior at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Irenonsen Eigbe, president of the Young Activists of Atlantic County, said young people are the next leaders of the country.
“And we need to make sure we’re having an interest in these topics because we’re going to be the ones making the decisions in the future,” said Eigbe, 18, of Galloway Township, a sophomore at Stockton University.
Eigbe and her three friends formed the YAAC because they wanted a way to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement that has been happening in large cities that they couldn’t otherwise participate in due to costs or lack of transportation.
MAYS LANDING — Throughout the 80-minute Black Lives Matter demonstration Saturday at the Atl…
“We really wanted to have something that we could get local people involved in because we know there are a bunch of people interested in these topics,” she said.
The YAAC’s first event was earlier this month in Galloway. On Friday — which was Juneteenth, the date that news of emancipation reached slaves in Texas in 1865 — they participated in a rally at Stockton hosted by the college’s newly revived NAACP chapter.
The chapter, which had been inactive for a few years, was brought back to life this month by 19-year-old Danielle Combs, of Berlin, Camden County, a rising senior and aspiring lawyer, who sought out membership after Floyd’s death.
Combs contacted her adviser and was able to quickly restart the chapter as its president.
“It was actually overwhelmingly easy to find students who wanted to join NAACP,” Combs said, noting she got three times as many members as were needed to create the chapter. “Students were hungry to have their voices heard.”
Like Eigbe and White, Combs had not been involved in any protests, marches or rallies until she decided to organize their own. The three young, Black women say they were inspired by their upbringings to get involved in the movement.
“We constantly live in this fear that police brutality is going to take one of us very soon. That’s a fear that I’ve been living with as long as I can remember,” White said. “As terrible as the situation is, I’m happy that from it we’ve started to really push for a change in the system because it is long overdue.”
Stockton sophomore Shannon Glover, 20, of Delran, Burlington County, had also organized a Juneteenth rally, which was later combined with the NAACP event. Glover said that as a Black man employed as a truck driver, he is constantly concerned about any interactions he may have with police. Floyd’s death struck him.
“It really hit my heart in the moment,” Glover said, adding he decided then to organize. “If not anybody else, why not me?”
Combs said the support has been overwhelming, and she hopes to see the movement continue well past June.
“A lot of times it will trend for a week. I don’t want this movement to go silent in any way. I’m going to keep this conversation alive against police brutality,” Combs said. “We want to break the barriers of social injustice and systemic racism. … We need to help fight to make the change happen now so it’s not too late.”
The recent marches bear messages of ending systemic racism and police brutality, as well as justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot to death in her home by police executing a no-knock warrant, and Arbery, a Black man, was killed near his home by two white men, one a former police officer, who suspected Arbery of robbery. There have been no charges or arrests made in Taylor’s death, and arrests were not made in Arbery’s death until four months later despite video evidence.
In addition, recent marches and rallies have had a focus on registering voters.
Tables have been set up at each event to sign up young people to participate in elections.
“It matters that people my age are registered and are voting,” White said. “So that they really understand that their single voice matters. There’s no better time to really start pushing for change.”