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Young activists led the way in a turbulent 2020

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Following the police-action shooting death of Dreasjon Reed and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters led by Indy10 Black Lives Matter were out in full force in downtown Indianapolis. While the activist group received an influx of attention due to national conversations about race and policing, Indy10 has been at this for years.

Founded in 2014 following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Indy10 members have taken an active role protesting injustices and advocating for the Black community. Beyond protests, Indy10 also offers a “no-questions asked” food pantry to help Hoosiers in need.

Jessica Louise, spokesperson for Indy10, said Indy10 members know what they’re up against.

“This is a long fight for us,” Louise said.

As Indy10 led large protests for weeks on end throughout summer 2020, another budding leader added her voice to the local activism scene.

Nisean Jones, 23, created Black Out for Black Lives after attending the first protest in Indianapolis following Floyd’s death, inspired by the people she saw fighting for Black lives. Throughout the summer, Jones hosted several demonstrations, including a Juneteenth event where she spoke about the plight of Black women.

“Black women have this stigma they can’t seem to shake,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter what we do, we’re always classified as ghetto, and it has to do with societal norms. Black Lives Matter was initially started by Black women, and I want to start having conversations about how Black women are treated in this country, by both white people and Black men.”

Both Louise and Jones feel protests ultimately lead to more conversations.

“In order to illicit a change, you have to talk about it,” Jones said. “Protests do that. You’re seeing protesters having a conversation. … But it’s not all we have to do. You can’t change a system, you have to break a system.”

Other young people throughout Indianapolis also are finding their voice to spread the awareness of social justice issues.

Taylor Hall, 20, wanted to use her love of music to combat racism. During a protest at the Statehouse in June 2020, Hall shared her song, “I Can’t Breathe.”

Armed with just her acoustic guitar, Hall posed a haunting question to the thousands of Hoosiers gathered at the demonstration:

“Is this 2020 or 1969?”

Hall’s work wasn’t over after that protest, though. She helped organize a Youth Lives Matter rally in October 2020 at the Statehouse.

“If we can get the youth involved now in a safe environment, it could impact them and affect the future,” Hall said. “They are our future and next leaders. We need to make sure they feel empowered.”

Following the election of President Joe Biden, some activists worry complacency would undo some of the empowerment and progress the group made throughout 2020.

Indy10 is working to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“We are already starting to work on educating people on what a Democrat-backed federal or presidential administration looks like and how the movement can operate inside and outside of said administration,” Louise said. “One of our goals is to defund the police, and Kamala [Harris] was the former prosecuting attorney for California, so she’s used to working alongside law enforcement. … I’m not of the mind that a Democratic president is going to do our work for us. By a long shot, our work isn’t done.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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