Young adults from Brandon join BLM movement

By: 
Anna Sorenson, Journal intern

A receipt from one of Riley Johnke’s trips to get high-need items for those affected by the protests and riots in Minneapolis. Drop off sites, as seen in the background, distributed the goods Johnke and his friends bought to residents of North and South Minneapolis. Submitted photo

As the world responded to George Floyd’s death through protests, petitions and advocacy, young adults from the Brandon area joined the Black Lives Matter movement, vocalizing their views on social media and participating in demonstrations of support.

 

Riley Johnke, BV Class of 2017

Riley Johnke attends the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He wasn’t in the Twin Cities when Floyd was killed on May 25, but he returned June 1 to start a fundraiser with two of his friends — Dan Dolan and Griffin Skoglund — for those who had been impacted by the events following Floyd’s death.

“We felt that as members of the community, it was our responsibility to help out in whatever way possible,” Johnke said.

Johnke and his friends raised money through posts on Instagram and Facebook, and then used the donations to help organizations in Minneapolis that had set up distribution sites throughout the city. The sites had lists of high-need items; while the needs varied by day, Johnke said he noticed personal hygiene and baby products were always on the lists.

Every day for a week, Johnke and his friends went to one of the locations to get a list, used the funds they had raised to fill shopping carts with that day’s needed items and returned to the drop-off sites where their goods were distributed to North and South Minneapolis residents.

The donations initially came from friends and family of Johnke, Dolan and Skoglund, but as people shared their posts on social media, Johnke said donations were “coming in from, quite literally, across the country.”

Johnke and his friends were expecting to bring in between $1,000 to 2,000, but within five days of starting the fundraiser, they had raised over $10,000. To date, donations have passed $12,000.

Although the donations have slowed, Johnke said they are continuing to receive contributions and are making runs to the drop-off sites once or twice a week.

For Johnke, returning to Minneapolis after Floyd’s death was an impactful experience.

“It was eye-opening to see the destruction that had occurred, but the community coming together was heartwarming and powerful,” Johnke said. “The second day after being up there, I went to visit George Floyd’s memorial, and I can’t quite put into words the unity I felt. There were so many emotions that could be felt from everyone around, but the one that everyone shared collectively was the desire for change.”

 

Hope Jackmon, BV Class of 2017

Hope Jackmon has always supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but hasn’t been vocal about her support until recently.

“Along with many other people, the murder of George Floyd sparked something inside of me. At that point, I knew I needed to speak out, spread awareness and do more for BLM.”

In the last several weeks, Jackmon has signed petitions, supported black-owned businesses and participated in the first Black Lives Matter protest in Sioux Falls on May 31.

Jackmon said she believes the BLM movement will make a town like Brandon uncomfortable, but she believes that just because the topic is uncomfortable to talk about does not mean it should be ignored.

“Many think that there is not a race problem in their town. As a Black person who grew up in Brandon, I can tell you that I’ve received my fair share of racist comments,” Jackmon said. “I think that the Black Lives Matter movement can affect the town of Brandon and other towns with mostly white populations by opening their eyes to how real racism is and why everyone should speak out against it.”

Jackmon said she hopes the Black Lives Matter movement will result in more African American history in education systems across the country. 

“I am disappointed to admit that throughout my K-12 education I barely learned anything about African American history. I have now realized that a lot of important history was left out of my education,” Jackmon said. “I hope schools begin using more diverse textbooks and other resources to teach students.”

 

Madi Lawrence, BV Class of 2020

Madi Lawrence said she decided to get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement after listening to friends and family of color.

“For me, it was a hard decision to speak out because I am white and privileged. I didn’t want to overstep boundaries,” Lawrence said. “After educating myself on what was going on in our world today, I knew the best thing I could do right now is listen. I started listening to what my friends and family had to say, and I used that information to speak out in an appropriate way.”

Lawrence has been signing petitions and donating to Black Lives Matter organizations, as well as attending two of the protests in Sioux Falls. Lawrence said the protests were a “big eye-opener.”

“I [had] realized this movement was important, but the reality of it didn’t sink in until hundreds were gathered to fight for what’s right,” Lawrence said. “Being at the protests helped me learn more about what the movement is, what we are fighting for and what we need to do to gain success.”

Lawrence said she hopes to see reform within the police system, specifically stricter guidelines for becoming an officer.

Most importantly, Lawrence hopes for equality and justice.

“We want to see that Black Lives Matter — that they are received, listened to and celebrated.” 

 

Kaitlyn Huska, BV Class of 2017

In the last several weeks, Kaitlyn Huska has been advocating for education on issues of race and amplifying voices of people of color. She said she hopes her hometown will take advantage of this time of social change to reflect and take action.

“Watch the documentaries, read the books, listen to Black voices,” Huska said. “We may live in a community that doesn’t have as many Black people as other communities, but that doesn’t mean we get to turn a blind eye to the issues at hand. We need to listen, learn and grow.”

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The Brandon Valley Journal

 

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Brandon, SD 57005
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