New generation tackles social issues
Talk to Tcherari Nu Kamara and her peers about social issues and you will get an earful even though they might not march in protest.
Their way is to air their frustrations through social media, through music, comic strips and cartoons.
Ask why and they’ll candidly share: what older generations have done for years hasn’t worked.
“We’re promoting how we feel not just through music and art, but all kinds of things that appeal to our community today,” said Malaikah Abdul-Jabbar, a member of Youth for Justice Bermuda, the group Tcherari formed just over a month ago with Sari Smith.
“I don’t watch the news. I don’t pay attention to politics. But if you think about things we’re interested in — we like watching cartoons, we like comics, we like social media 24/7 — that’s where we receive most of our information from. We’re more likely to remember something as a goofy cartoon than if the President had a document and we had to read it like it was a textbook. So what we’re trying to do is promote our ideas through things that would appeal to, not the older generation but our generation. Because whatever’s happening is going to directly affect us.”
Youth for Justice Bermuda’s nine members range in age from 13 to 24. The group formed partly as a response to the worldwide protests against racism and police brutality that followed the death of George Floyd, the African-American who died in May at the hands of white officers in Minnesota.
“The aim is to spread awareness about the issues that are affecting our communities and our peers as well as the issues that are affecting people worldwide such as the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Tcherari.
“Sari and I have been friends for a long time and during this whole Black Lives Matter [campaign] we’ve been sending each other different resources and information on things that have been happening. I suggested that maybe we should make a group for younger people so we can do bigger things and create events or other ways to help our communities, so we can help people who are being affected the most by this horrible situation.”
Many of the members had already been involved in activism, offering their artistry, organisational skills or expertise in social media. Both Sari and Therari were involved with Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, the non-governmental organisation set up to “identify and dismantle racism in all its forms and to address the effects on our community”.
“I participated in the Curb Truth and Reconciliation conversations and I learnt a lot about how racism affects Bermuda and how it’s so ingrained in our society and I thought we should do something about that,” said Tcherari, who sits on the youth council of environmental charity Greenrock and last year helped plan the Great Bermuda Penguin Swim, a fundraiser for a school in Sierra Leone. “We should have young people talking about racism and how it affects them and their communities, and doing something about it as well.”
Youth for Justice has staged one event so far — a musical tribute on July 11 in honour of Elijah McClain. The 23-year-old African-American died last August after a confrontation with officers in Colorado who had stopped him for “looking suspicious”.
In their public invitation to the City Hall concert Youth for Justice Bermuda described the massage therapist as a “kind, gentle soul who played violin for shelter animals in his free time”.
Sari said: “I asked some of my friends from the Bermuda School of Music to come down and play their violins with me and some of the members from our group came and sang and played their guitars. It was a memorable experience. He was a very sweet person and he used his time to play for others so I thought, why not take time out of our day to play for him and remember him?”
The trio said they were able to identify with the cause, having all experienced racism in some form.
“Racism affects everyone whether or not they’re aware of it, whether it’s done consciously or not,” said Malaikah. “It could be someone is denied a job or, even among a group of friends, some may be treated just slightly differently. You may not think it’s racism but it is.”
More blatant was the experience Sari had at a camp where she was partnered with a musician of a different race.
“We were told to shake each other’s hands and give each other a high five each time we played this passage of a piece and it came out well,” she said. “She would high five everyone else and smile, but then she had to high-five me. She had this look of disgust on her face and she wiped her hand on her shirt as if I was dirty. We didn’t know each other. This was the first time I had met her.”
At its core, the group’s mission is “to raise awareness” about how people think, mindful of how past attempts to effect change have failed.
As compared with older activists, “we want to talk about things”, said Tcherari.
“We’re not afraid to bring up things that make people feel uncomfortable and we don’t want people to be quiet or feel like they can’t be heard. We want to accept everyone.”
According to Malaikah, one of the big differences is that they’re not trying to reach everyone, mainly their peers.
“The methods that are being used by the older activist groups, they’re not necessarily getting through to this generation because we’re not interested necessarily in the kinds of methods they’re using. They don’t appeal,” she said.
“There are different ways that we plan to spread our message. Sari did her music, I’m an artist — we have to look at it from our own perspective. What appeals to me and lots of my friends are comics, simple three-box comic strips in the newspaper. Lots of people read those. They can get entertainment from it, but they also become aware of the issues.
“That’s an easy way to spread the message. I don’t always enjoy going out and necessarily doing a march even though I do care. Lots of the time, lots of people probably don’t feel like leaving their homes and that’s why online things come into play — they can donate from their computer, they can donate from the comfort of their home.”
• Follow Youth for Justice Bermuda on Instagram: @youthforjustice.bda. Contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org
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