Young La Mesa protesters gather to promote respect, kindness

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Photo by Jessica Brodkin Webb Families marched at a Kids Voices 4 Change protest held at La Mesita Park on Saturday. Organizers said they want to provide children a safe place to participate in advocating for black rights in San Diego.

A Kids Voices 4 Change protest held Saturday morning, July 11, in La Mesa was organized by a group of local parents of various racial backgrounds to set an example for their children on how to advocate for Black rights as  well as allowing them to participate, according to the printed mission statement handed out by organizer Angela Barley.

Roughly 150 young children and parents gathered under shady trees alongside soccer teams practicing nearby and listened as the day’s events were presented in a format resembling a lesson plan for young students.

To open the event, Anita Lewis thanked children in attendance before encouraging the young listeners to join her in the first verse of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ dubbed the Black National Anthem by the NAACP in 1919.

“Kids, I’m so happy you’re here and by being here using your voice, you can change the world,” Lewis said.

Organizer Jessie Goose told the young crowd to remember they were part of a movement, not a moment, then asked the kids, many seated cross-legged with their families near strollers and kids wagons, to lookaround and share something special or unique about themselves with another family.

“We all look different, right? Our differences are what make the world around us so beautiful… How boring would it be if we were all the same? Imagine if you wanted to paint or draw and you only had green paint or green crayons. That would be boring right?” Goose asked

Lewis engaged the children with a second song to close the lesson— ‘This Little Light of Mine’— and encouraged kids to join in the chorus before the young protesters were taught a basic chant to repeat while marching along the sidewalk encircling the grassy field.

“We march today because Black and Brown people deserve to feel safe and loved and to be treated with kindness and respect. We march today because we as parents must teach our children to treat all people regardless of their skin color or background with love and respect. We march today because we no longer want the world to judge people on the color of their skin,” Goose said.

The families ambled down the sidewalk with strollers and colorful signs, young children slowly making their way around the path. While families marched around the short route, Barley tidied up a small table laid out with several printed resource lists for parents and families, including a list of podcasts and television shows to watch with children entitled Resources to Be a Better Ally. She also provided a list of recommended books to promote self-love for Black children featuring the cover art of the books for children who can not yet read but might visually recognize familiar titles.

When the protesters returned to their starting point, Saxophonist Angel Farrah Fannin treated the young crowd to a short concert, occasionally pausing to throw out a universal sign for peace or wave at interested listeners as she strolled through the event.

“I love how positive this is with so many kids really listening to the message. It’s a good day,” Farrah Fannin said.

After the event, Goose said organizers were inspired by the families that came out for the protest.

“It was a great turnout and so nice to see the community out there. We definitely plan on doing more, including some events for older kids. We have a lot of feedback from families who would like to get more involvedand we just need to come up with a game plan,” Goose said.

The group plans to announce future events on Instagram and Facebook at: @kidsvoices4change.