JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The New Generation Freedom Fighters group has hosted Black History Hour for the past couple of weeks, but Sunday, the group launched Black Cultural Hour, giving community members a chance to express themselves in regard to today’s political climate.
The group encouraged participants to recite poetry, perform music, or other forms of voicing their experiences, whether it be personal or on a larger scale.
One of many: The Black voice
One of the board members and founders of the New Generation Freedom Fighters, 16-year-old Sierra Gilmer, stood before dozens of listeners to recite a poem that follows her experiences as a Black person.
She thought life was a ball, and every time I saw her fall, she got up and stood tall and said, ‘Let me try this again’…A girl told her she was different for her skin; her little head started to spin wondering why it was her skin that wouldn’t let her in… She just wanted to be cool at an all-white school so that she could conform to their rules — straight hair, pretty clothes, speak proper so no one knows that she is not one of them so she could blend in and not have to defend herself when people say she either acts too white or too black…Her heart was tired, and her soul was weak, but she has a story that she’s going to speak. This is just a small part of this little girl’s story. Looking back, I wish I could tell her not to worry, but little did she know she would someday change the world and be a voice for other black boys and girls. She realized everyone is fighting their own fight, but she can use her story as a light to let others know that they’re not alone, and each day they get through the stepping stone. This little girl was I, and she is me, and together her and I — we make history.Sierra Gilmer, New Generation Freedom Fighters
As the young activist voiced her Black experience, a trio of painters finished the group’s art project, which showed support toward both the Black Lives Matter movement and the Pride movement in honor of Pride month.
The march forward: What’s next?
News Channel 11 spoke with New Generation Freedom Fighters board member Andre Johnson, who said that the goal of these education and cultural hours is to spark healthy conversation and to encourage others to see the world through a perception that might be different from what they’re accustomed.
“The fight’s not stopping whether it be education or be the cultural things; we’re doing this to show how prevalent Black culture is in this nation,” Johnson said.
Board members continue meetings with Mayor Jenny Brock and Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner.
According to board member Katelyn Yarbrough, the next meeting between board members and city officials will be Tuesday, June 30, and Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson will discuss the upcoming year’s budget and any possible reallocation.
Upcoming marches and events include Marion, Virginia on July 3 at 2 p.m., and a march on July 4 in Elizabethton.