Following weeks of demonstrations, former Anytown participants are continuing the conversation about systemic inequality.
FOX8 spoke with five graduates of the Guilford County program, held yearly by NCCJ. Nearly 100 high schoolers participate, spending a week in Western North Carolina each summer.
The leadership camp focuses programming on diversity and inclusion, and participants partake in tough conversations about race, religion, and identity.
When asked about how participants felt about current events, several said they felt overwhelmed.
“It’s also exciting to see the change and the growth our nation is going through,” Elijah Turner said.
“I’m just angry for others,” Carla López-Alvarez said. “I think that’s the biggest emotion I’ve felt more than anything, I feel a little bit inspired but not as much.”
Program graduates said they are having tough conversations with friends and family members, some who don’t agree about issues surrounding police brutality, and other issues of systemic inequality.
Most participants felt Anytown gave them tools to communicate effectively.
“Instead of bashing this person for not knowing, and showing ignorance in whatever subject, I’m going to show that person or teach that person data and information,” Turner said.
“It’s important to say that we see one another and we can learn from one another, because otherwise we are only remaining stagnant and that’s not where we want to be,” Matheus Barbee said.
When asked about some of the conversations participants are reflecting on most, some said privilege is top of mind.
“It’s like you’re standing in a line, and the store is opportunities or something like that, it’s so hard when you’re at the front of the line to see how many people are behind you, and even if you’re in the middle of the line you’re like, there’s so many people in front of me, I can’t have privilege,” Sophia Carson said.
“I’ve felt more empowered to say you know I don’t think this is fair, I don’t think this is how our systems should apply to our communities, these are some changes I think could be made so everyone has a better experience,” Barbee added.
Regardless of when they attended Anytown, graduates of the program encouraged others to take part.
“We build a community and we become family and I still talk to people to this day from before my sessions and after my sessions, just don’t be scared to have these conversations and don’t be scared to go to spaces where these conversations are available,” López-Alvarez said.
“This isn’t something that we can handle in a day, we have to be relentless in combatting these systemic issues, otherwise we will fall back into our same patterns,” Barbee said.