Saturday morning wasn’t the first time demonstrators gathered and marched through the streets of Kirkwood to declare that Black lives matter in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But it was impossible not to notice a distinction in the demographic makeup of the hundreds holding signs and chanting on June 27th. Nearly everyone there was either a young child, or an accompanying parent.
The protest was organized by an 8-year-old Black boy named Nolan Davis and his mother, Kristin. Nolan got the idea after he asked to speak at a rally in a neighboring school district weeks earlier.
“We went to a couple marches, and he spoke at one of them,” Kristin Davis said. “He then turned to me right after he spoke, and said, ‘can I have my own one for kids?”
The two sat down, made a flyer, and shared it on Facebook. “We thought maybe 20, 30 family friends would show up,” Davis said. They underestimated that number: although it was raining Saturday morning, hundreds of people came. The unexpected numbers made marching a bit cramped--as it was a march by and for young children, everyone stuck to the sidewalks.
“I spoke into a megaphone, and I said stop hurting Black people,” Nolan Davis explained. “Then I asked my mom if I could have my own march. I just can’t believe how many people came!”
Other families saw the march as a way to get their children involved in the movement for racial justice in a relatively safe way. While walking through Kirkwood, many parents conversed with their children about what it was they were doing that day. One white father told his child, who was dragging his Black Lives Matter sign, “make sure you hold it up high! It’s disrespectful to that sign.”
Melissa Bevel brought her young nephew to the march. “We’re here just to support the movement in a positive way, and I just love that everybody’s coming together no matter what, rain or shine. It’s something that really matters, and for the kids to be able to be involved, that’s something that’s important to me.” She said that she explained the march to her nephew in terms of people being mean to others: “I’m going to let his parents do the majority of the [explanation], but I just told him that I’m out here with a lot of my friends, because we all think that everybody should be treated equally,” she said. “And when people are mean to people, we need to come to those people’s defense.”
Looking around at the masses of people who showed up to support him, Nolan Davis reflected on what he’d learned from organizing his own march. “I learned that Black Lives Matter is important to kids, too,” he said. “Now, kids are going to know that Black Lives Matter is important to them, and adults are going to know that kids care.”