One of the hardest parts of the racial equity uprising has been figuring out whether or not to attend racial justice events as a family. Will they be safe and kid-friendly? Are children welcome? As a big, multiracial family, we think it’s important to include our kids in as much activism as possible, since we’re working to create a better future and world for them.
Thankfully, more and more events are being created with the entire family in mind, making sure the event is kid-appropriate. After all, Ruby Bridges famously said that racism is an adult issue, a disease, and we need to stop using kids to spread it. By organizing a kids’ march for racial justice, children and adults are able to take an active role in anti-racism, and when applicable, white allyship.
Remember, racial justice isn’t superficial vibes of peace, love, and unity. Racial justice is a fight, a battle, an action—but it must be presented to kids in a way they can appreciate and understand. The ACLU of Louisiana hosted a children’s racial justice march recently, with the goal of providing a “safe space for young people to learn about the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Additionally, their goals were to help children “develop the skills to identify and interrupt racism in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities” as well as “make their voices heard about the future they want to build.”
Kristin Davis and her family recently hosted a children’s march in St. Louis. She told Scary Mommy that after taking her two children — Nolan, who is eight, and Caroline, who is five — to local marches, Nolan asked to speak at the second event. He got the megaphone and said, “Stop hurting Black people!” The audience cheered. Nolan asked his mom if he could have his own march so that other kids could speak, too. Davis agreed, and they hosted an event two weeks later in their community of Kirkwood, Missouri that had an estimated seven-hundred to one-thousand attendees.
If you’re considering hosting a child-friendly racial equity event, whether it’s a march or activity-gathering, here’s what you need to know.
Establish your purpose.
What do you want to promote? What do you want attendees to learn? How will they best learn? Remember, kids tend to do well with clear expectations, hands-on activities, invitations to participate, and visual demonstrations. What do you wish for them to do with what they learn? Meaning, what are the future goals? These are important questions! When promoting your event on social media and during your event, be sure to convey the purpose to your audience.
Plan to keep the program portion short and sweet.
The ACLU recommends keeping the programming portion of the event to fifteen minutes or less. Longer programs won’t hold children’s attention. They offer some ideas to create an engaging program. Have someone perform, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Have a poetry reading. They utilized I Can Do Hard Things by Gabi Garcia. Make time racial justice chanting, call-and-response fashion, along with holding up signs. They also recommend that one of the activities be a sign-making station.
Consider the needs of your audience.
Is the chosen venue accessible to all? Are you following regulations? Some spaces require permits, such as the Davis’ originally considered venue, the St. Louis arch. Be sure to have refreshments available for the comfort of your audience, especially if it’s a hot day. It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit handy. Of course, due to COVID19, it’s important to protect participants by stating up front what’s expected, such as wearing masks and social distancing. Re-iterate any rules at the beginning of the event, and have hand sanitizing areas. Younger audiences will appreciate hands-on activities, such as opportunities to write with sidewalk chalk, which was part of the Davis’ event.
Promote, promote, promote.
Social media is a great way to promote your event. Be sure to clearly share the purpose, the agenda, the location, the date and time, and that, of course, your event is family-friendly. What else should your audience know regarding virus-precautions, attire (will they be walking?), refreshments, and if they need to bring anything, like signs. You can also invite media to cover the event, like Davis did for the event she helped host. Don’t forget to designate someone to take pictures and videos and gain any necessary permissions to use and share those photos.
Have a backup plan.
If the weather causes a necessary delay, will you meet later that same day or reschedule? Have backup speakers, demonstration leaders, and refreshment stand hosts ready to step in if necessary. As far as safety, it’s a good idea to make sure all rules are being followed and what you and the other volunteers would do if someone posed a safety risk to the group.
Give your audience future action step suggestions.
Attending an event is wonderful, but it’s not enough. What steps can attendees take to continue promoting anti-racism? The Louisiana ACLU stated that they believe supporting organizations such as the ACLU, NAACP, and others is important. They also urge attendees to contact local city government, urging them to consider systemic revisions. Answer the question for them: what next?
The Louisiana ACLU offers a free event toolkit on their website with further information, including anti-racism resources. Davis suggests asking for help from someone more experienced before considering hosting an event. Marches and gatherings can certainly be a lot of work, require knowledge of rules and the ability to be organized. As these two hosts show, an event promoting racial-equity and acknowledgment that Black lives matter, can be powerful in teaching children and their families to stand up for what is right.