According to new research released Thursday, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tragic death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed have had a profound effect on young Black anglophones in Quebec.
McGill University psychologist Dr. Richard Koestner, the author of one of the studies, has spent the last year exploring how Black people from ages 18 to 30 have been affected by the two significant events.
“The worst pandemic in a hundred years and the biggest civil rights movement in 50 years,” he noted.
Koestner found that rates of depression and anxiety were especially high among Black young adults during the pandemic and that the death of George Floyd added even more stress.
“What came through was a kind of fatigue and frustration,” he told Global News, “from the sense that young Black youth were being targeted.”
His research is just one of the studies being done in partnership with the Black Community Resource Centre, which is running a project called Black in Quebec to better understand how members of Black communities are faring.
Eighteen-year-old Davyda Robinson, a liberal arts student at Vanier College, agrees that it was a stressful year for young Blacks. It started for her during the first pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020.
“It was really hard and I think that’s how I got depressed so easily,” she told Global News from her back yard in Châteauguay.
She said being forced to stay home during the first few days of the pandemic was fun because it felt like an extended long weekend. But then the lockdown turned into weeks. She says she refused to leave her room or eat for days.
“Because I was used to doing so many things, like being on committees, sports and all that stuff,” said the former Billings High School student.
While she was struggling with the lockdown, George Floyd was killed.
According to her step-father, Damion James, that hit Davyda and her five younger siblings hard.
“They weren’t mentally prepared,” he explained. “They were all thinking about the pandemic and then now to see a guy get murdered for like no reason.”
Davyda pointed out that despite the resulting protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, she felt frustrated and tired.
“Sadly, I don’t know if it made a big change,” she admitted, “because you still hear stuff going on,” referring to other altercations between Blacks and police since the Floyd incident.
Koestner, however, noted that despite the hurt among the groups he studied, something positive happened.
He says Black youth somehow found a collective sense of empowerment through the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They were saying, ‘my community has a voice, is being listened to, is taking action.’ That really made a difference,” he said.
He added that there are signs of resilience and hope among them because they seemed to have managed to find a way through the hardship.
Though Davyda’s stepfather pointed out that the teen struggled for more than a year, she said she is feeling better now.
The student started a business in December making and selling skincare products from her parents’ kitchen and wants to go to university after college.
She said she refuses to make any big life plans yet, however.
“Because, you know you can make life plans but then they can just go off track,” she laughed.