West Philly Families Solidarity March
By Sachio Ko-yin
January 3 2015
You couldn't drive down Baltimore Ave. Police blocked off the street, and down marched an army of children and their parents, wielding umbrellas, kazoos and tambourines. At least half the marchers rode on shoulders and backs. They held up signs reading, “Black Lives Matter” and “Kids for Equality,” then veered off into Clark Park chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
A parent spoke at the end, braving the rain with no umbrella: “When we were planning, someone asked us, ‘What do we want from this march?’ I thought about it, and realized I want to see you, to meet you. I want to know who else in this community is raising their children to stand up for justice, with the values of activism, against racism and police brutality, for involvement in their community.”
About 40 minutes before the march began, we gathered in the sanctuary of Calvary Church (48th and Baltimore), a room full of some 100 parents and children and community members. The agenda was simple: Introduce your family to the families around you, and then, find someone you haven’t met yet, and share a hope for your community.
I saw many parents and younger children, but I also heard local high schoolers who were outraged at the verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the Eric Garner case. They came today to express themselves. Their plan was to report back to their class about what marching was like.
An organizer invited parents and children up to the microphone for the speak-out. “Ok, now we can say what’s on our minds, for about 30 seconds. But please remember this is for children, so please keep it short and simple.”
One parent said “I often feel like my life as a parent and my life as an activist are at odds. But for me, being here today, I want my family to meet your family. We are here to dispel the myth that we live in a post-racial society.”
Speakers shared their concerns about racism in society, gentrification, stop and frisk, and defunding of schools. There were songs like ‘From Ferguson to New York, I’m gonna let it shine.’ And there was a 4.5 minute ‘Noise-In’, where everyone raised their tambourines and kazoos for justice for Black Lives Matter, followed by a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin, for Michael Brown, and all victims of racist police brutality.
Then it was time to put on coats, get umbrellas ready, hold up colorful signs, and funnel out the door to take over Baltimore Ave, to sing and chant for justice and for conscience, as community and as family.