On the March

September 11, 2020
ALISHA CARTER

On August 28, thousands of protesters gathered on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., for the March on Washington 2020. They were speaking out against racism and the unjust treatment of Black people in American society. For months, marches have taken place in the United States. They started after a man named George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.

“Genuine equality is why we are here today,” Yolanda Renee King said to the crowd. “We stand and march for love, and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.”

Yolanda, 12, is the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. She was speaking on the same date that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, exactly 57 years ago. That was during the 1963 March on Washington, a milestone in the struggle for civil rights.

Like the 1963 march, the 2020 march attracted a diverse group of people of all ages, including kids. Young people have played an important role in the civil rights movement for decades. They continue to be leaders in the fight for social justice.

YOUTH LEADS Yolanda Renee King and her father, Martin Luther King III, stand before the crowd of thousands that gathered on August 28 for the March on Washington 2020.

JONATHAN ERNST—POOL/GETTY IMAGES

A Look at History

In May 1963, thousands of Black children in Birmingham, Alabama, took part in the Children’s Crusade. They walked out of school to protest segregation, marching peacefully toward City Hall, singing: “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round.”

Freeman Hrabowski was 12 at the time. He decided to march when Martin Luther King Jr. visited his church. King asked kids for their help. “He believed in us, that we had a role to play in our democracy,” Hrabowski told TIME for Kids.

Hrabowski’s parents allowed him to march. They were aware of the dangers that existed at the time. But they felt it was worth the risk. Some of the children who marched were arrested and spent a few days in jail. Hrabowski was one of them.

STEPPING UP Children lend their voices to protests in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. They were calling for an end to segregation. Their participation drew widespread support for civil rights.

FRANK ROCKSTROH—MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

The march was effective. Americans watched it on television. They saw how police treated kids in Birmingham, and they were outraged. “More people began to talk about how bad things were,” Hrabowski says.

The civil rights movement gained support. The 1963 March on Washington took place a few months later. It drew 250,000 attendees. It pushed the U.S. Congress to outlaw discrimination against Black people.

Positive Change

Americans are still fighting racism. And children are still speaking out. Kids’ marches have taken place in cities all over the country, including Kirkwood, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; and North Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aidan Carter is 10 years old and in fifth grade. In June, Aidan’s mom allowed him to organize a march in Portland, Oregon.

Portland has seen many demonstrations lately. Some of them have turned violent. But Aidan’s demonstration was different. Many of the hundreds who participated were kids. They came with their families. Some rode bikes. Babies rode in strollers. Bullhorn in hand, Aidan led the crowd in a chant: “Black Lives Matter.”

“I felt like one of the big people,” Aidan says. “Even though you’re little, you can still be brave and stand up for rights.”

FACE OF CHANGE Aidan Carter, 10, leads a kids’ march against racism in Portland, Oregon, on June 17.

ALISHA CARTER

Aidan’s mom, Alisha Carter, is a teacher. She’s proud that her son took a stand. “Sometimes, you have to do tough things to help your community,” Alisha says. “It’s important for Aidan to see that he can make a positive change for those around him.”

Speaking Up

Also in June, hundreds of young people attended a kids’ march in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Baylor Peterson, 11, joined in with her parents and sister. “Little kids are smart enough to see that racism is not okay,” Baylor says. “I don’t understand why some older people can’t see that.”

Saunya Peterson is Baylor’s mom. “We want our daughters to be aware of the privilege they carry [as white people],” she says. “They should use their voice and power to help others.”

Maggie Barnes organized the march. She owns a day-care center in Saint Paul, a few miles from where George Floyd was killed.

Barnes wanted to provide kids with a safe way to voice their feelings. “Children have a lot to say, if they’re given a chance,” she says. “They have a right to be seen, to be heard.”

FOR THE KIDS Maggie Barnes leads the June march in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Kids have a “right to be seen, to be heard,” she says.

SAUNYA PETERSON

The line of marchers stretched more than four blocks. People carried signs calling for respect and equality for all. Those in front held a long, red banner that read, “Kids March.” It showed an image of Floyd.

A Better Tomorrow

Barnes is encouraged by the sight of parents supporting their kids at marches. “There are future politicians in there, doctors, every walk of life,” she says. “They can all benefit from learning to speak up.”

FAMILY AFFAIR Parents join children at a demonstration in Somerville, Massachusetts, in June.

BLAKE NISSEN—THE BOSTON GLOBE/GETTY IMAGES

The kids’ marches, and the March on Washington 2020, remind Freeman Hrabowski of something Martin Luther King Jr. told him and other young protesters in 1963: “Tomorrow can be better than today.” For Hrabowski, that statement has proven true.

“In the 1960s, I could not have imagined seeing large numbers of families who were not Black out protesting and saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’” he says. “That’s not something we should take for granted.”

Art for Justice

Taking part in a march or large protest isn’t the only way to fight for equality. Some kids write letters to local and national leaders. Others raise money to support groups that help people. Lately, some young people have been using art as a form of protest. Kids all over the country are showing support for social-justice issues by writing messages and drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk. It’s a quieter way to protest that can still make a big impression.

ROB KIM—GETTY IMAGES

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