CHARLOTTE – Arí Gibson encouraged dozens of young people at a Black Lives Matter rally to use their voices to help fight racial injustice, reform the prison system and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be successful.
Arí, a rising senior at Providence Day School, organized the June 19 rally at Marshall Park, with her older sister, Énoa Gibson, and her friend, Kiersten Hash.
“I could go to someone else’s rally and speak through someone else’s platform,” Arí said. “I realized I had to be the change I wanted to see. You start with things like this, try to get involved and really use your voice, because no one has the same perspective as you.”
Arí can recall several instances in which she has faced racism, ranging from being followed around stores by employees worried she would steal something to being called a racial slur while in Spain for declining unwanted advances.
“Systemic racism is a huge problem in the U.S. and worldwide,” she said.
During her remarks at the rally, Arí tried to connect these daily reminders of racial inequity to history, highlighting the Three-Fifths Compromise, the loophole in the 13th Amendment allowing involuntary servitude and Jim Crow laws.
This isn’t the first time Arí has tried to put a spotlight on social issues. As a freshman, she won honorable mention in C-Span’s 2018 StudentCam competition for a documentary she filmed about human trafficking.
“To be a good citizen, you have to be really involved in politics and social issues, because at the end of the day, they affect me and the people around me that I love,” Arí said. “It’s just really important for me to raise awareness for problems to make change.”
Her older sister, Énoa, is also drawn to social issues.
Énoa is majoring in broadcast journalism at Howard University and interning this summer with Spectrum News. She was recently named a Pulitzer Fellow, which will allow her to head to Costa Rica to report on how students there have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes.
Through her travels across the country and abroad, she’s been exposed to many different issues that people may not be aware of at home. She feels it’s important to capture people’s stories so they have a voice, which is especially relevant now.
“This a unique time in our history where we feel like our voices can finally be heard,” Énoa said. “We want real change. Change is happening everywhere because older people and younger people like us, from all around the world, refuse to be silent.”
As Énoa held a megaphone leading demonstrators in chants like “No justice, no peace,” Kiersten Hash focused on educating the crowd about how Black Lives Matter is more than police brutality. Kiersten, a rising senior at Mallard Creek High School, said the movement is about reforming systems that break down Black families and communities.
“This is a pivotal time in our history,” Kiersten said. “The world is coming together saying Black Lives Matter is not a race issue, it’s not a political issue. It is a human rights issue. If you don’t stand for Black people, you are not standing for the human race.”
Kiersten has known Arí for a couple of years through their involvement with the Charlotte Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, which provides character-building programming for children.
Kiersten launched an organization called Queens for Change, in which she empowers Black teenage girls to let them know they have the power to change their communities through service and speaking out about issues that affect them.
“I see what is happening in our community and this moment is very pivotal in terms of social issues and social change,” Kiersten said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic where African Americans are dying at disproportionate rates. Then you have us being killed by police or lack of health care, and it’s just very overwhelming. I just had to do something.”
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