Lupita Martinez, 10, co-founder of the Radical Brownies, makes a star at the protest’s craft time.
As the dozens of protesters gathered in Oakland, CA, on Saturday, there was no sign of police in riot gear.
And as the marchers briefly blocked traffic and chanted for peace and justice, there was no spray paint or broken windows, and no faces were covered with black bandannas.
That’s because at this Black Lives Matter march at Eastshore Park near Lake Merritt, the participants read a Dr. Seuss story, ate snacks, got squirmy and then put glitter paint on cut-out stars.
Most of the protesters were still in preschool, with the oldest topping out at age 10, and they all had their parents in tow.
The event, organized by the group Colorful Mamas of the 99%, included a reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches,” which tells the tale of star-bellied and plain-bellied Sneetches, a satirical story about discrimination and difference.
After story time, the marchers made their own colorful and glittery star, then sang “This Little Light of Mine.”
The event was a marked departure from the late-night, anger-fueled protests in Oakland over the past several weeks, where people took to the streets to demonstrate against police brutality against minorities and specifically against the killing of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and in New York City.
’Complicated and scary’
The parents who attended the Saturday morning playground event said they wanted to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement with their children, but in an age-appropriate way.
“Many families aren’t ready to explain police violence to their kids and I can understand why, it’s complicated and scary,” said Andrea Ibarra-Tacdol in a statement. “Our families are ready to share stories about differences, to teach our little ones to appreciate the diversity of their friends, and to march with other families who believe that black lives matter.”
Neto Cornejo, 2, participated in the short march through the Lake Merritt farmers’ market seated in his red Radio Flyer push bike. He didn’t specifically chant for peace and justice, but he looked like he was having a good time.
“As a Latino person, as a parent, it’s become very apparent — the connection between the Black Lives Matter campaign and the Latino community,” said Neto’s dad, Dani Cornejo, citing common issues like mass incarceration, discrimination and police violence. “That’s why we’re out here, in solidarity.”
Lupita Martinez, 10, was among the older children at the event. She attended with the social justice scouting troop she helped start a month ago: the Radical Brownies, complete with uniform brown vests and berets.
It’s sort of a “brown beret, Black Panther” thing, said her mom and co-founder, Anayvette Martinez. “It’s all rooted in social justice for girls of color.”
It was one of the first official activities of the newly formed and unaffiliated troop.
“I like to learn a lot about what’s happening around me,” Lupita said. “It gives me ideas about how to help.”
The fifth-grader had already learned about “white police killing young black men” and she wanted to do something about it.
“It makes me want to talk to (the police),” Lupita said, “for them to get the message it’s not OK.”
Many of the parent participants had joined together during the Occupy movement in Oakland to form the Colorful Mamas of the 99%, organizing child-friendly areas and activities for children.
The parents want to be part of the Black Lives Matter movement as well, but many have felt isolated and unable or unwilling to participate in the late-night and at times chaotic or violent protests.
At Saturday’s child-friendly event, there was no anger or violence or profanity against police. In fact, there was no mention of police during the planned events. Just talk of Sneetches and stars.
“We’re all activist mamas trying to figure out how to plug in our kids,” said organizer Kimi Lee, who has two children, ages 3 and 7. “Nighttime is hard for strollers. But this is important.”