Children's marches are popping up around the country to include kids in the Black Lives Matter movement. Learn how to organize a safe and peaceful demonstration of your own with tips from the ACLU.

By Melissa Mills
June 26, 2020
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Bernie Saul

On June 20, the ACLU of Louisiana hosted a Children’s March for Racial Justice in New Orleans to provide "a safe space for children to learn, rally, and march for Black lives." With attendees wearing face coverings and social distancing enforced, approximately 300 children and families participated. Along with a march, the ACLU event included youth performances, an anti-racism pledge, a book reading, and an exercise for participants to imagine a safer future without police violence.

Spearheaded by Alanah Odoms Hebert, the first Black woman to lead the ACLU of Louisiana, the march was planned after the murder of George Floyd when Hebert was finding ways to explain racism to her 5-year-old daughter. She immediately saw the need to create a safe space to teach children about racism, equality, and the fight for Black lives.

According to the ACLU of Louisiana, the event gave "children the opportunity to learn about the Black Lives Matter movement and develop the skills to identify and interrupt racism in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities."

Research shows that babies notice differences in skin color from a very early age. In fact, babies as young as 3 months old may look at people who don't look like their parents differently. And by age 2, children can begin internalizing racial bias. That's why it's important to start teaching your children about race and equality early, and that starts with surrounding them with people of other racial and ethnic groups, reading books or watching shows that feature diverse characters, and, yes, including your children in the fight for equality.

Children learn through their parents' actions, so exposing them to peaceful demonstrations—to speak up for equality and against racism—will allow them not only to participate, but to follow suit.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "if you want your children to believe what you preach, you have to exhibit those behaviors as well. Your everyday comments and actions will say more than anything else." That's why it's your place as a parent to be a good role model and show your kids how to be accepting and respectful, and that can happen with a peaceful protest.

Kids and teens across the U.S. are taking part in the Black Lives Matter movement, whether it's in an organized march of hundreds, or with a neighborhood lemonade stand to raise money for diverse books. The ACLU is not currently planning another children's march, but that doesn't mean you can't organize something in your own community. Here are some tips to safely get started as family, straight from the ACLU of Louisiana's toolkit.

How to Plan Your Own Event for Racial Justice

1. Make safety a priority.

Keeping in mind social distancing rules, plan an outdoor event and require participants over the age of 2 to wear a mask. For extra safety, you can provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer, plus mark the ground to ensure families are staying 6 feet apart.

2. Set up areas for refreshments and creativity.

Set up an area with food and drinks, and designate another area as a sign-making station to allow kids to create posters for the march. When the time's right, start your program—but make sure it's not too long to keep the kiddos engaged.

3. Kick things off with a powerful message.

The ACLU of Louisiana recommends starting off with a welcome song—like "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is often called the Black national anthem—followed up with community agreements. Samples provided by the ACLU include:

  • "Be aware of how much you are contributing to the conversation. Make room for others if you are the talkative type, and speak up if you’re the quiet type."
  • "Try on new ideas and perspectives, instead of rejecting them outright."

4. Allow kids to share their feelings.

The ACLU of Louisiana encourages families to engage in a thought-provoking exercise. For kids younger than 7, you might ask them to imagine their safest spaces. For those 8 and older, ask them to imagine a world without police violence. This can even be done at home or virtually to start a discussion about race, equality, and white privilege.

5. March.

Have children grab their signs, get marching—while continuing to practice social distancing—and chant, "Black lives matter! Black kids matter! What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!"

6. Use affirmations to close the event.

The ACLU suggests a reading of Gabi Garcia's I Can Do Hard Things to close out the event, followed by the following affirmations:

My life matters, your life matters, Black lives matter.

I am powerful.

I have support.

I can create change.

I will use my voice and actions to create an anti-racist community.

7. Take Action.

Supporting racial justice through a peaceful protest is great, but make sure to encourage your community to take action afterward by donating to organizations like the ACLU and the NAACP, contacting local officials, and voting.

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