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‘It’s Time to Act,’ Says Co-founder of Black Lives Matter

By Kyle Taylor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement agrees that all lives matter – but she says it’s important to recognize that African-Americans in particular have been marginalized by American society.

“We actually do believe that all lives matter so much that we are willing to call out the fact that our society is reinforcing the fact that the system shows that many believe that black lives don’t matter,” social activist Opal Tometi told about 1,000 people at the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University on Thursday night.

“Black Lives Matter is a phrase, an ideology in this world where black people systematically do not matter,” Tometi said.

“We are shifting what is and what could be. Black Lives Matter is about a consciousness of the people – black folks first and foremost, because Black Lives Matter is about an affirmation of our own dignity and our own lives. Beyond that, it’s a demand to the mainstream, to those who are in power and maintaining the status quo.”

Black Lives Matter originated in the African-American community as a campaign against violence toward black people. The movement was co-founded by Tometi and two other community organizers: Alicia Garzaand Patrisse Cullors.

In 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teenager Treyvon Martin, the movement began with the use of the hashtag#BlackLivesMatter on social media.

Black Lives Matter has become nationally recognized for its street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garnerin New York City. The campaign has evolved into an international activist movement.

The activists in the group believe that all lives matter, not just black lives. However, the campaign’s opponents have criticized its focus. They started a movement called All Lives Matter in direct response to Black Lives Matter.

“Much of the work we’re doing with the Black Lives Matter movement and with our particular methods with the 34 chapters across the country is bringing into existence a multiracial democracy that actually works for all of us,” Tometi said.

“We already live in a multiracial society, but what is so evident is that some people – some lives – are more valued than others.”

Tometi called for action and encouraged everyone to get involved.

“We can’t be silent about issues and how people are being marginalized any longer,” she said. “What we need is for everyone to make a very conscious and deliberate decision to be with us or against us. Either fight against the status quo that black lives don’t matter, or join the ones who maintain it.”

As the event came to a close, Tometi stressed the importance of acting. She urged the audience to form or join organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Nice thoughts aren’t going to save black lives,” Tometi said. “We’ve been thinking and waiting for a long time. Now it’s time to act.”


The Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville, and the Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia, will be closed Tuesday, April 19, 2016 for Staff Development Day. Libraries will reopen Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 9:30 AM. For more information please call 434-848-2418 ext. 301 or 434-634-2539. Both libraries are part of the Meherrin Regional Library System.

EleVAte SNAP E&T Pilot Program at SVCC

On Wednesday, April 13th, Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) with its local partners, Brunswick County Department of Social Services, Charlotte County Department of Social Services, Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services, Halifax County Department of Social Services, Nottoway County Department of Social Services and Prince Edward County Department of Social Services, will launch a new employment and training pilot program called EleVAte SNAP E&T to help residents who currently receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to secure better jobs in high-demand fields.

Last year, the Virginia Department of Social Services received a $22.3 million competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and test innovative SNAP E&T strategies. The pilot program will serve approximately 5,386 SNAP recipients who are required to work in 13 counties and 11 cities across both urban and rural areas over three years.  The Pilot program will provide training and education as well as focus on teaching participants soft skills such as employment readiness and self-confidence, the ability to work in teams and communicate well, and help with writing resumes and interview skills. It may also provide limited financial assistance for travel, clothing, exam/certification fees, etc.

Through an innovative three-prong approach, the EleVAte SNAP E&T services will be individualized with an Adult Career Coach providing guidance and support through Employment & Training, Support Services, and Career Counseling. The program will also be tailored to meet the needs of each community, matching participants with labor market opportunities.

Eligible participants could have a chance to access one or more of three different components:

1) EleVAte Virginia Online: an online and in-person program lasting about six to eight weeks. This program will help participants develop literacy, math, and other job readiness skills useful in any industry. These services will also help prepare them for additional job training;

2) Job Skills Training Program: a job training program that will help participants get ready for employment. This program lasts eight to twelve weeks. Participants will earn a certificate of job readiness; and

3) PluggedIn Virginia: a program lasting about six to eight months that will give participants job training, career readiness, GED preparation and an industry-recognized certificate.

SNAP recipients interested in finding out more should contact their local Department of Social Services and ask about the EleVAte SNAP E&T Pilot program. Employers, and others interested are encouraged to contact Southside Virginia Community College, LaRoya Walton at laroya.walton@southside.eduor Gloria Westerman at


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