Bobbi Brown, founder of a CT-based mentorship program, and Columbus, Ohio, City Council President Shannon Hardin tell PEOPLE they hope change comes soon

By K.C. Baker
June 04, 2020 02:15 PM
Advertisement
Bobbi Brown
Danielle Simone

On Saturday, Bobbi Brown took to the streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to peacefully protest the slaying of George Floyd with a group of young girls and teens from her non-profit, #100GirlsLeading.

“For some of them, this was their first time participating,” Brown, 30, tells PEOPLE. “They were all really inspired.”

Brown founded #100GirlsLeading in early 2019 to provide mentorship for underserved girls in Bridgeport, a city of nearly 145,000 residents where nearly 20 percent live below the poverty line.

The organization “is dedicated to empowering young girls by giving them access to mentorship programs so they can go on to become effective leaders in their lives, careers, and communities,” she says.

Bobbi Brown
Shiana Barros

So far, she and her team have connected more than 500 girls to various mentors and programs to help them achieve their goals.

Shouting “No justice, no peace!” into a microphone on Saturday, Brown inspired a crowd of nearly two dozen of the non-profit’s young members and their mothers to chant with her.

Danielle Simone

“I participated in the protest because there is a lack of responsibility when it comes to black men being killed by police brutality.

“Our friends and our peers are being killed in the street by those who wear badges,” she says. “But those who wear badges are supposed to protect us.

“Our skin color should not be considered a weapon. I think that’s the most important thing. We shouldn’t be judged for the color of our skin.”

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Volunteer Taylor Dawson, 26, cannot erase the image of Floyd slowly dying as Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on the restrained man’s neck on May 25.

“It was so painful to watch George literally lose the life out of him,” says Dawson. “The cops were so nonchalant. This showed me that cops still have no fear and believe they can get away with murdering our black brothers and sisters.

“My prayer is that justice will be served. With our protests, we hope to bring awareness and change, yet again.”

On Saturday morning, in another U.S. city reacting to the news of Floyd's tragic killing, Columbus, Ohio, City Council President Shannon Hardin joined a local march to support his fellow citizens.

Instead, Hardin, along with 70-year-old Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce ended up getting pepper-sprayed by police when an officer began scuffling with a protester.

After trying to shield Beatty from the stinging spray and spiriting her away from the ensuing melee, Hardin immediately took to Twitter to ask people to remain calm.

“We have to have grace right now as a country,” he tells PEOPLE.

“We need the police to see the protesters and their pain and we need the protestors to see that structural racism is not just about one person, it's about a system.

“We need both sides to see each other, or we won't have the change that we so desperately need.”

Says Dawson: “I’m hoping this is the last time I have to see a brother or sister murdered at the hands of police without justice being served.”

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.