JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, hundreds of activists in the Tri-Cities region have marched miles upon miles to raise awareness of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.
Earlier this week, the New Generation Freedom Fighters hosted several protests in response to Floyd’s death to call for change within law enforcement procedure and training.
After this week’s marches, prayer vigils, and protests, the group called together a public forum at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse in downtown Johnson City to allow activists to share their experiences pertaining to the movement and to spark ideas as the group moves forward.
News Channel 11’s Mackenzie Moore spoke to one of the leaders of the group, 16-year-old Sierra Gilmer, who said that for change to occur within communities, activists must stick together to initiate reform.
“If we are arguing within ourselves and within each other, then we can’t make a difference,” Gilmer said. “If people see us arguing then we are doing the very thing that we are protesting against.”
A Daniel Boone High School English teacher, Daniel Couper, took the stage to speak on behalf of black representation within the educational system and expounded upon why he believes reform begins with young people.
“No student should graduate without having experience with a black teacher,” Couper said. “There are studies that show that students — black boys, in particular — who have an experience with a black teacher, who have a black teacher for one year at school, are at a 40% less chance of dropping out of high school.”
Another speaker who identified as “Glenda the Lively” encouraged the activists to stay persistent with the movement.
“Don’t get lazy,” Glenda said. “When you hear that those three police officers also got charged, don’t get lazy.
“When you hear that the Breonna case just got reopened, don’t get lazy. When you hear that all of these things are happening in Johnson City and you hear that the chief is on your side, don’t get lazy.”
Travon Brown of Marion, Virginia has traveled to participate in the marches in Johnson City throughout the week. Brown spoke Friday evening to address the counter-statement, “All lives matter.”
“Our community needs love right now,” Brown said. “I know all lives matter, but all lives do not matter and shall not matter until black lives start to matter.”
New Generation Freedom Fighters used the end of the forum to encourage activists to become familiarized with local elected officials and to participate in the voting process.
The New Generation Freedom Fighters have a ‘March on Carver’ at 6 p.m. meeting at Founder’s Park Saturday, June 6.
The group will host a Juneteenth celebration, which is a traditional celebration that commemorates the ending of slavery within the United States.
For more information, visit the New Generation Freedom Fighters Facebook group.