New initiative looks to break barriers for Black youth in four New Brunswick cities

Local organizations working closely with New Brunswick’s Black community are eager to expand services, with a focus on at-risk youth.

The Youth Outreach Project is a new initiative led by the province’s John Howard Society in partnership with organizations, including Black Lives Matter New Brunswick.

Matthew Martin, the executive director of Black Lives Matter New Brunswick, says the project as a whole will offer programs in Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton and Miramichi.

“What it will look like in each city is going to be very different,” says Martin. “Each city’s demographic, how they’re made, and what works in each city is going to change.”

On Thursday, the project received a commitment of $2.4 million in funding from the federal government.

In Saint John, Martin says some of the project’s work is already underway where space is available for youth to drop-in and “decompress” during the lunch hour.

“When you’re in an environment where you feel you’re being faced with systemic barriers or you’re experiencing racism at school, this place is here so our Black youth can come in and talk to somebody or vent,” says Martin.

“And the person can come back and say, ‘I know what that’s like,’ or, ‘I know how that feels,’ and they really mean it.”

Yusuf Shire, the president of the Fredericton-based New Brunswick African Association, says about 200 young people across the province will benefit from the project.

“In their community and in their spaces we want to be able to give them that place that they can be able to feel safe, that they can be able to be themselves and speak openly and unapologetically,” says Shire.

“They’re going to be able to get support and somebody right there listening to them and really helping them find the resources or find the support they really need.”

The project’s primary goal is to support youth and their families by eliminating systemic barriers to post-secondary education and employment.

“There’s so much work to be done on the ground and I am happy we’re finally here and it’s happening,” says Adebayo Ogunleye, the president of the Nigerian Canadian Association of New Brunswick based in Moncton. “It’s really important because they see someone who looks like them and someone they can trust.”