Weekly Intern Spotlight

A weekly look at the WACH 2020 intern’s perspectives on current issues surrounding world affairs. This week we heard from Mackenzie Kirkwood and Dora Betts on Black Lives Matter.

Mackenzie Kirkwood:

My name is Mackenzie Kirkwood and this fall I will be a senior at Cumberland Valley High School. I am so ready for this BLM 2020 wake up call. The time for action for the black community in the US is long overdue. It is especially imperative for youth, teens, and all of Generation Z, to take a look up, and see what is going on around the world today. I have been to multiple protests with my friends and family. With my social media accounts, I have been posting BLM protest events so people are aware and informed on how they can help the movement. I have answered dozens and dozens of questions about what it is like to be black in America through my social media accounts, and I have dedicated a space on my social media that is for students in my community to ask questions and learn and act. That is something I admire about my generation: we are acting. In addition, I helped start up Cumberland Valley 4 BLM. As the vice president, I am helping organize events, hold Zoom conferences, and educate the Cumberland Valley High School student body about systemic racism and police brutality. I also created a way for students to directly contact our state representative to encourage him to vote in accordance to PA House Bill 434 which enforces that school districts must support their teachers to get trained and be culturally competent and teach their students properly about human rights.

Someone I admire greatly and quite frankly the most is my mother. Her name is Jumoke Kirkwood. Her sacrifices and her willingness to fight for her children no matter what, is something that I hope to embody when I become a parent someday. She speaks up about racism in Cumberland Valley School Districts and has created so much change in our community. My mother doesn’t shy away from a problem, she looks at the situation, assesses it, and works for a solution. She is a remarkable woman who values a safe, educational environment for her children, and will stop at nothing until that is accomplished. I will hold on to the life lessons that she has taught me for the rest of my life about courage, determination, the willingness to succeed and diligence. 

Dora Betts:

My name is Dora Betts, and I’m a rising senior at Mannheim Township High School in Lancaster County. I enjoy studying economics, foreign policy, world affairs, and domestic politics.

I hope to study journalism and political science at my chosen college and continue onto becoming an investigative journalist or work in politics. I am proud of the youth’s immense activism for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Systemic racism continues to persist in the United States due to a lack of awareness and governmental confrontation regarding the issue. While this wave of support was sparked by the need for police reform, the issue of racial inequality is not one that is only present within law enforcement itself: it is also present in schooling, housing, employment, and more.

While change in policy must be enacted to ultimately defeat systemic racism, this is not a democrat versus republican matter. It is a human rights matter. We must put down our guards, our political standings, our egos, and genuinely listen to those who have had their voices suppressed for too long. We must simply listen.

While I’ve been unable to protest physically, I’ve been able to sign petitions, donate, and continue to educate myself through my enjoyment of reading. I also wrote an article for my student publication on the current protests in my county, in which several Black students from my school have played immense roles in. By writing this news article, I felt that I could emphasize Black voices and share the positive outcomes and journey of the protests, which have mostly been given negative light by the media.