PATERSON, N.J. (WABC) -- Summer recess in Paterson, which was marked by heated protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in 2020, is now characterized by a burning desire for change.
17-year-old Alisha is a counselor at the newly created Black Lives Matter youth camp at the Christopher Hope Community Center.
"Last year we were angry, this year we organized," Alisha said. "It has to be a lot bigger than going to protest one day. How are we going to keep a movement sustained."
The program, which was organized by members of the Black Lives Matter Paterson Youth Council, teaches students leadership and community organizing skills.
The council was the one that picked out the books. The Hate U Give really addresses things like being targeted by the police and people can paint this narrative of what Black men are," Alisha said. "We got into that conversation, how we have to destigmatize that."
"I've been reading books on black civil rights fighters, I feel like I need to," camp attendee Karon Edwards said.
Through affirmations, yoga, and meditation the camp promotes being present, grounded, and self-aware.
"The kids who are here now are fighting for human rights. The generation now, with us, we are giving them the tools for that," Black Lives Matter Paterson organizer Joseph Moore said.
Starting with providing a community.
"A lot of them were expressing that to me, 'I face racism,'" Alisha said. "Having that space where others can relate but not only talk about how it hurt them, it allows them that vulnerability and that community to keep building."
Community donations helped fund this free program which organizers hope will continue next year.
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