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Baltimore Youth Advocates Reflect On Lessons Learned From Deaths Of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor And BLM Movement

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- While COVID-19 dominated the headlines in 2020, Americans also experienced a racial reckoning of sorts.

Events like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor forced people across the country to recognize racial injustices and fight to break down barriers.

In the beginning, there was hope for 2020.

"It was #2020Vision because so many great things were going to be happening," youth advocate Ericka Alston Buck said.

George Floyd's death in Minneapolis in May, however, exposed America's lingering wound.

"The year brought to the forefront things we already understood that was happening, so racial inequity," Adam Jackson, the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, said.

Video of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck sparked outrage and protests nationwide and even internationally, including in Baltimore.

WJZ asked Alston Buck and Jackson what it was about that video that made people pay attention.

"How that body in the ground wasn't valuable, how that wasn't a person. How the officer blatantly disregarded a human life," Alston Buck said. "... The impact of what we saw moved the crowd."

The protests stemming from outrage didn't come as a surprise to Jackson.

"What people saw was it was a magnified version of what's been happening around the country," he said.

It wasn't just interactions with police that drove the conversation. Video surfaced of a white woman, Amy Cooper, in Central Park calling the police on a Black man, Christian Cooper, who had asked her to leash her dog. She later lost her job.

Earlier this week, police released new video that showed a woman attack the teenage son of Grammy-award winner Keyon Harrold, CBS News reports. The woman accused the teen of stealing her cell phone. She disputes the allegations against her.

Alston Buck said this environment is forcing families to have hard, honest conversations about race.

"Do our lives matter at your dinner tables when you make jokes? Even if you don't find it funny, are you correcting your friends and family members?" she said.

From the dining room to the boardroom, even major corporations proclaimed Black Lives Matter.

The movement also sparked serious conversations about police reform.

"Now we can talk about racism in a variety of ways. To talk about that now is the mainstream thing," Jackson said.

In a year of racial strife, there's recognition of resilience.

"In spite of all that has occurred, we are still making changes every day in our community," Jackson said.

And more barriers continued to break when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris became the first Black woman and South Asian woman to take the country's second-highest job.

"Young people see this and they do what they see," Alston Buck said.

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