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Rochester NAACP hosts youth panel for young activists to share social justice perspectives

ROCHESTER, MINN. (FOX 47) -- On Saturday, the Rochester NAACP branch continued its virtual Black History Month speaker series. The morning discussion was titled, "Youth Perspective - The Transformative Nature of 2020: Where Do We Go from Here?" The topic allowed four Black Southeast Minnesota young women to amplify their voices as it relates to the Black Lives Matter movement.

"People will really start looking at us more like human beings. That are really going through things, that just want to be heard," said Amarachi Orakwue, event moderator.

The panelist discussed some of the struggles they've experienced when speaking out against injustice.

"It's hard advocating for Black people as a Black woman. It's hard. Because I feel like people don't listen to you unless they want to, or unless you have something that they can't not listen to," said Akpos Eyafe, Winona State University senior.

"Being young and a Black woman, it's hard to get people to take me seriously at times. So that's why I kind of try to overcompensate and go the extra mile to really show that I'm being serious and this is what I am standing up for and this is what I believe in," said Yasmin Ali, Mayo High School senior.

Akpos Eyafe next to the picture / poster that received national attention

Eyafe is an activist whose face went viral after a photographer took her photo at a George Floyd Protest. The photo gained national attention and landed on Black Lives Matter posters.

"I felt like I had to show up and just be present for the moment because it was so raw," Eyafe said.

In Rochester, one of the biggest protests was formed by the Rochester Community Initiative, a Youth-led organization. Ali is a member.

"I think it was very natural for us to try to find ways to heal the community. And we felt that this protest would allow people to express their emotions. Fight for what they believe in and come together as a community," Ali said.

The panelists touched on topics about police accountability.

"Reacting in a way that is more so violent or reactive instead of proactive is just not beneficial at all," said Christine Kassiano, RCI member and Mayo senior.

The group also shared their reaction to the "All lives Matter," term

"It started out as literally saying Black Lives Matter. So if you have a rebuttal to that I feel like you have to be going against what the statement says," Eyafe said.

"If you were at a breast cancer awareness event, would you be going in there and saying all cancers matter? Like that doesn't make any sort of sense to try to invalidate somebody as a human," Ali said.

They also talked about the education system's teachings about Black History.

"I don't think they teach Black History in the way that Black students need to hear it," Eyafe said.

Wale Elegbede, NAACP president, encourages the young women to continue to speak up, as they are history makers.

"It's not just Black History Month, every day should be a day that we celebrate and just looking back we need to make history. And you all are our young leaders and you guys are going to make history," he said.

Next Saturday, the Rochester NAACP will share resources that people can use to learn more about Black History.

KaMaria Braye

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