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CHANGEMAKERS: Spread more LOVE – Nova Scotia man amplifying youth voices in fight against racism

Dennis Adams is the newly-appointed executive director of LOVE Nova Scotia and will use his platform to amplify youth voices as they develop leadership skills and lead the charge against racism and inequity in Nova Scotia.
Dennis Adams is the newly-appointed executive director of LOVE Nova Scotia and will use his platform to amplify youth voices as they develop leadership skills and lead the charge against racism and inequity in Nova Scotia.

Dennis Adams recalls being routinely stopped by Halifax Police officers in his North End neighbourhood growing up, despite never having obtained so much as a parking ticket.

He was a young man with the confidence of an athlete, but these periodic stops left him deflated. Now, even after two decades as a social worker and figurehead of Halifax’s North End, he wonders whether he might get stopped if he’s not wearing a suit jacket.

Adams is hopeful that such stories of African Nova Scotians and Indigenous community members will become fewer, as Black, Indigenous and other youth in Nova Scotia save the next generation from these degrading experiences. He will now work as Leave Out Violence (LOVE) Nova Scotia executive director to amplify their voices so they are never again silenced.

“The rest of my breathing days, I’m going to speak for people who need to be heard and represented,” he says.

Empowering young leaders

Adams grew up in the heart of Halifax’s North End, where he attended church each Sunday with his mother, Rose Adams, his brother and five sisters, excelled in sports and became a prominent community member. He wondered about his future after school and felt certain about one thing only: that he’d emulate his mother’s community work, which had inspired him to help others.

“I saw her mentorship, her leadership and her greatness and was very touched by that. I didn’t know how I was going to work with people specifically, but I knew I was going to do it,” he says.

Adams worked in various community jobs before starting as a student support worker and later becoming a registered social worker. He joined LOVE Nova Scotia nearly two decades ago and was named its executive director in September.

“Being involved in something where you work to make something better: I like the whole idea of that,” he says.

The non-profit instills resilience and leadership skills in Nova Scotia youth and is something Adams hopes to grow across the province. His goal is to foster an equitable future where youth aren’t stopped by police simply for being Black or Indigenous, and where they can lead the charge against racism and inequity from a place where they are heard.

“When a youth says to you, ‘we’re going to spread more love in the world,’ it’s just fantastic. When they talk like that, I can’t help but get excited and more hopeful,” he says.

‘It’s our time now’

Adams says the current Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter movements sweeping the United States and Canada have awoken Nova Scotia. With LOVE producing a new generation of leaders, he says these movements are motivating the province’s youth more than ever.

“I think the young people are going to be the changemakers. They’re going to make sure society is a true, level playing field,” says Adams.

As youth take charge, Adams says it’s important the public be able to distinguish between passion and anger, especially during demonstrations. He says people should understand these youth are passionate, not angry, and are fighting for their future, which is something that everyone should support.

“Let’s stop making assumptions and start learning more about people. Everybody’s got a story, so let’s show who actually makes up our communities,” says Adams.

In a future free of systemic racism, Adams says he’d be able to dial up fellow Black or Indigenous chief executive officers, executive directors and businesspeople heading successful businesses and giving back to their communities. And while 2020 has been a difficult year for many, he says it’s one that has proved that this future is within reach.

“Nova Scotia: it’s our time now. Our youth are woke here, and let’s make this change, let’s make this place better for all,” says Adams.

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