In Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed after an altercation with local police outside a store. Following this incident, The Seacoast Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM Seacoast) was started with the objective of eradicating racism and ending police brutality within the Seacoast communities.
BLM Seacoast is an organization working to support Black owned businesses, aid Black youth, and help provide the Black community with better education and health. They are doing this by holding rallies and protests such as the one for Breonna Tayor on September 25th in Concord, NH. They hold panels for youth to talk about politics and for them to make their voices heard and Zoom panels for all to join in and learn about their rights. They also have contributed to the community by holding a vaccination day and supply drives.
BLM Seacoast is not the only chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM). BLM is an organization started in 2013, and since then, smaller chapters have been founded to target smaller areas of the country. Clifton West Jr. and Tanisha Johnson founded BLM Seacoast in July of 2020 with the goals of encouraging Black youth leadership, providing aids such as scholarships and drives, and demanding interest in social services and education. “We live in a bubble up here in New Hampshire and here in Durham there are more Black Lives Matter signs than Black people.” Says citizen of Durham NH Joan Gross. Gross believes BLM has started conversations that she thinks should have been started a long time ago.
BLM Seacoast was established because of the racism and anti-blackness in New Hampshire. Occupational Therapist Beverly Lagueux states “We have done conferences and looked at our activities and books to make sure we have diversity.” Lagueux works at Strafford Learning Center located in ORHS. She speaks about the diversity they have within their children, making it even more important they include diversity within their curriculum. As Lagueuz mentioned, it’s vital to integrate anti-racism into the curriculum. Oyster River developed an anti-racism statement following the event of George Floyd’s death and the establishment of BLM Seacoast. Emily Hamilton wrote an article in Mouth of the River going more in depth on the Oyster River anti racism statement. To learn more you can access the article here https://mor.news/2020/12/16/how-orhs-is-addressing-racism-this-year/.
ORCSD has acknowledged racism exists in the community and schools. ORHS student Brendan Sheehan (‘22) states “Not a lot of schools have adopted a new stance on racism, but Oyster River has which is very commendable.” In November of 2020, ORHS sent an email update to students, parents, and faculty addressing their anti-racism statement. ORHS stated that they will look back over their previous racism policy, their curriculum, and add access to resources.
Along with changes in the schools, the organization has hopes of creating changes within law enforcement where the Black community has been targeted. As well as assisting schools to become anti-racist institutions, they have also partnered with local districts such as Massachussets, Hampton, and Oyster River. The Exeter school district allowed BLM Seacoast to speak to their classes. BLM Seacoast also worked closely with the Strafford County Sheriff and at the start of his campaign met with him to go over what they hoped to accomplish.
The Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave has spoken about his support of the BLM Seacoast chapter. “My job as Sheriff in the BLM Seacoast chapter is to address, educate, and bridge the gap to bring them all to the table” says Brave. With the support of the Sheriff, BLM Seacoast is still working towards their goals to end racism within law enforcement. One goal within enforcement they hope to achieve is ending brutality from law enforcement against the black community.
Along with their work within law enforcement and school systems, they also bring more awareness of racial inequality to members of the community. “It’s given people more of a platform to speak up and speak against racial issues,” said West. To spread this awareness, BLM Seacoast uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to speak out against racial injustices. West believes that social media has contributed to them reaching a wider audience and getting the word out to members of the Seacoast. They have also used social media to spread the word about rallies and panels they are having. Such as the All Black Gala with guest speakers such as the director of BLM Nassua Jordan Thompson and Educator Toyin Augustus.
There is a part in BLM for the youth as well. The organization offers a form that youth fill out to get involved in the Black Lives Matter Seacoast Youth (BLMS Youth). They also hold youth panels for those wanting to talk about topics ranging from politics to racial inequalities. These meetings have been held over Zoom due to Covid-19 though they are still meeting to talk and discuss issues. This is another way for young people to get involved as BLM Seacoast encourages them to do so. Sheehan states “We can’t vote, we can’t do a lot, but what we can do is reach out to those who need our help.” As young adults, those under the age of 18 are struggling to find a way to feel like they are making changes. Additionally, BLMS Youth offers a spot on their website for youth to share essays about their personal stories of racism or just to advocate for equal rights.
Looking into the future, West is looking forward to creating new opportunities for Black youth and getting involved in the movement. In regards to the focus of BLM Seacoast in the future West says “We’re trying to push these politicians, city councils, and town officials to adopt more progressive ideas that benefit the Black and Brown community.” To get informed with BLM Seacoast and their goals go to www.blmseacoast.com where they provide resources to educate yourself and learn how you can be an ally.