Obama Tells Young Black Americans “You Matter”

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In the wake of recent protests across the U.S. against police brutality and in solidarity with the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other Black Americans, former President Barack Obama made an address to the nation. Yesterday evening, Obama participated in a town hall on police violence with community organizers and activists, joining via Zoom and giving a 15-minute speech emphasizing the main goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Obama spoke directly to young Black Americans who have witnessed “too much violence” in the nation and their communities, and urged them to continue fighting for justice and leading the country towards a better future. “I want you to know that you matter, I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter,” the former President said.

Referencing the young Black changemakers in his life, including daughters Malia and Sasha, and his nieces and nephews, Obama reminded Black youth everywhere that “you should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store or go for a jog or are driving down the street or looking at some birds in a park.”

Obama covered many topics in the address, from the nation’s long history of systemic racism to the opportunity afforded by recent events to mobilize and awaken American citizens to the brutality that has long existed. He also highlighted the inextricable link between political action–voting in local and presidential elections–and civil disobedience and protesting. “This is not an ‘either, or’ this is a ‘both,’” Obama said.

Ending on a three-part suggestion of ways to take action, Obama asked mayors and local elected officials across the country to review their community’s use of force policies and implement “specific steps” to reform law enforcement going forward. He also stated that every city should participate in the Brother’s Keeper Foundation, which is an Obama Foundation that supports men and boys of color.

“Make sure that we now follow through,” Obama said. “It’s very important for us to take the momentum that has been created as a society.”

Watch President Obama’s speech and town hall below:

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