'I'm ready to step up': New generation of activists leads Black Lives Matter movement
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- A new generation of activists is leading the Black Lives Matter movement in the Maritimes, organizing rallies and demonstrations to ensure their voices are heard.
But while they may be the new messengers, they’re spreading the same messages as those who came before them.
A Black Lives Matter demonstration held in Saint John, N.B., last weekend turned out to be the largest demonstration of any kind in the city in decades.
Thousands of demonstrators marched from King’s Square to city hall -- a massive turnout for an event that was largely organized by a group of young people who had never been involved in planning a protest before.
Organizer Matthew Martin says he was humbled by the show of support.
“I wanted to get involved and do something and one thing led to the next and here we are,” said Martin. “The City of Saint John really stepped up.”
Organizers say they were surprised by the turnout, and by the cross-section of people in the crowd. They see it as a sign that the message is resonating with people in the area and with a younger generation willing to pick up the torch.
“It shows that young people are concerned about what’s going on. They care and I think it’s important that so many people showed up,” said protest participant Kathy Young. “Young, old, it’s a big deal. It’s a life-changing experience, I would say.”
Ralph Thomas has been fighting against racism for decades, but, this time, he wasn’t involved in organizing this protest.
“Now the young folks are stepping up to the plate and that’s what really makes me happy,” said Thomas, a member of the New Brunswick Black History Society.
“I’ve never seen such a crowd in the City of Saint John standing up for a cause.”
Black leaders across the Maritimes say they are noticing the same response from young people, noting the movement has reached a milestone.
“We’ve certainly passed the torch to them, or we are passing the torch to them,” said Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard.
“I just wish we were passing a different torch to them. I really wish that the young people who are out there screaming for change, or fighting for change, I wish they didn’t have to fight the same battles that we’ve been fighting for over 50 years.”
Some of the same battles are ahead, but with new blood starting to take a lead role.
“Absolutely, I’m ready to step up for my community, for the Black community, and to see a change happen,” said Martin.