The executive director of Black Lives Matter New Brunswick imagines his life would be much different had the current resources been around when he was growing up.
“To come to somebody who really can say, I know how you feel, and they really do know how you feel, could’ve been life-changing for me,” Matthew Martin said at an announcement in their Uptown Saint John office Thursday.
Martin’s remarks followed the introduction of the Youth Outreach project, which aims to work with at-risk Black youth to reduce anti-social behaviours and enable them to excel in their education, employment and social lives.
“To help them meet their own employment goals or whatever they may bring, whatever barriers they may be facing; this space will serve as that kind of focal point where we can address those barriers and really start promoting Black excellence,” Martin remarked.
Based in Saint John, the program headed by the John Howard Society of New Brunswick will partner with other organizations like Black Lives Matter N.B. and also serves the communities of Fredericton, Miramichi and Moncton.
Funding for the project comes through the Federal government, with a $2.4 million investment to support crime prevention.
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino was in attendance for the announcement.
“This is a fund that is going to positively impact 200 young Black Canadians between the ages of 12 and 24 through programs and supports that are going to be provided through BLM and through John Howard’s leadership,” said Mendicino.
The minister noted that the development of programs for Youth Outreach will be left up to the John Howard Society.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say Canada is not immune from racism; we’re not immune from hate. I mean, these are not just problems we read about south of the border, we’re not immune from gun violence. We need to do more,” Mendicino said.
“We also have to make sure that we prevent crime and gun crime from occurring in the first place, and the way that you do that is by investing in our communities.”
Stakeholders on hand for the announcement gave positive reactions to the establishment of the Youth Outreach project.
Yusuf Shire is the president of the New Brunswick African Association.
“Families will decide to stay in New Brunswick because they are seeing their children excelling in school, they’re seeing their children being part of programs that are really building them to become excellent men.”