Community Youth Empowerment stands with Black Lives Matter

Jun 5, 2020

Members of the Wareham-based group Community Youth Empowerment joined forces with the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight for justice for George Floyd, and drastic reform to combat systemic racism in the criminal justice system and society at large, by participating in a protest in Buzzards Bay on Thursday, June 4. 

Protesters have organized demonstrations in all 50 states, and many countries around the world in the days following the death of Floyd, the black man who was killed in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, while two other officers kneeled on his body, and another did nothing to intervene.

On June 4, hundreds of people gathered in Buzzards Bay to participate in this worldwide movement. 

Community Youth Empowerment was formed to teach important life skills to young people in Wareham, and to provide them with resources for exploring career paths. Program Director Jowaun Gamble said that he and other group leaders chose to participate in the protest and stand with the Black Lives Matter movement because it is in line with their mission of fighting for “equality, equity, and justice for all.”

Gamble said the protest officially started at 2 p.m., but some demonstrators had arrived as early as 12:30 p.m. The protest began near the Cape Cod Canal, and later Marched to the Bourne Police Station. 

Gamble said that the protest was peaceful, and that at one point, officers kneeled alongside protesters during a moment of silence for Floyd. 

He added that while demonstrations like the one in Buzzards Bay are powerful, “the conversation can’t stop at the protest.”

For Gamble, this means voting for leaders who will actively fight against systemic racism. He added that this is not limited to presidential elections, and should include senators, selectmen, and other public officials. 

He also stressed the importance of speaking out against racial disparities and inequalities. 

“Don’t be a closed mouth,” he said. 

Gamble holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Bridgewater State University, and said that the criminal justice system is in need of specific policy changes, as well as general reform. 

For example, Gamble said that something needs to be done to address racial disparities in sentencing, where people of color often receive harsher sentences than white people who commit the same crime. 

He also advocated for improvements in training, and recruitment policies for police officers. 

To start, Gamble said officers should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and should be educated on things like psychology, and sociology, rather than just use of force tactics. 

Gamble cited education as one of the biggest things that can lead to real change.

He also placed an emphasis on the need for community policing, and said that officers need to have “more human interactions” with the people they encounter.

“We need to be able to look at [police officers] as our neighbors,” Gamble said, and not as a threat.