Thousands participated in a children’s march around Lake Merritt on Sunday, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and national protests against police brutality. The Oakland march, which took place at the same time as another march for kids in San Francisco, drew about 4,000 youth and families. Protesters started their march in front of Children’s Fairyland at 2 p.m. and walked the three miles circling Lake Merritt. 

Oaklandside contributor Sarah Belle Lin interviewed young people and families about why they decided to show up, and what type of future they hope to help build.

“Tragedy can become your triumph”

David Tolson at Lake Merritt with his sons, David Jr. and Davion Messiah (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin) Credit: Miero Wakeman

David Tolson currently lives in Antioch, but was raised in West Oakland. He brought his two sons, David Jr. and Davion Messiah, to the march to promote a better future for them. “I need them to grow up in a world that’s better than the one I grew up in, just like we grew up in a world that was better than that of our parents,” he said. 

Peacefully protesting has been a positive way to release his emotions, added Tolson. “It’s important to channel the anger I feel inside into something positive because I have to set an example for my sons. It’s important for me to teach them that frustration, anger and tragedy can become your triumph if you channel it correctly.” 

“No more Black lives slaughtered”

Malik (left) with his little sister Bailey and his grandmother Robin at Lake Merritt on Sunday. (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin) Credit: Oliver Huang

Malik attended the march with his grandmother Robin and his younger sister Bailey, a student at Northern Light elementary school in Oakland. Malik, who will enter Berkeley High School this fall, said he hopes people will abolish their preconceived notions of Black communities.

“I hope there will be no more Black lives slaughtered, and people won’t assume we’re doing something bad just because of the color of our skin,” he said.

“We’re not any different”

Taylor Johnson holding a sign at Sunday’s children march. (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin) Credit: Oliver Huang

Montera Middle School student Taylor Johnson said she decided to join the march due to deep-seated inequities in how Black Americans are treated.

“It’s not fair. We should all have rights, and not that some people be treated differently than we are, because we’re not any different than other people,” she said. “That’s why I love this march, because I feel like a lot of people in this world really do care about Black lives.”

“I want to show my kids”

Clarence Ting and Shefali Nanavati with their kids Kaya and Mona. (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin)

Clarence Ting and Shefali Nanavati marched on Sunday with their two children, Redwood Day School students Kaya and Mona.

“This is a movement I’m happy to see catching fire not only nationally, but internationally,” said Ting. “I want to show my kids this is what it means in a democracy, and to peacefully protest.”

“It’s been way too long”

Sophia with her daughter, Asiya. (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin)

Burlingame resident Sophia Majeed brought her daughter Asiya to the march because these issues hit close to home. “I have close friends and family members who are Black. I’ve personally seen the toll racism takes on their lives,” she said. “It’s been way too long to continue having blatant racism and unfair treatment by law enforcement.” 

Majeed, who works in biotech, said her company employs very few people of color. “What I can do is voice my concern to my employer that they really need to change their hiring practices, to hire more people of color. It’s a shame that because of racism, we’re not taking advantage of the creativity of the Black community and the knowledge and experience that they bring.”

“We all have to agree that Black lives matter”

From left to right (clockwise): Evora, Sebastian, Oliver, Rowan, Shaye, Mari, Andrés (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin)

Montclair Elementary School student Shaye Weeramantry said, “It’s good we’re protesting to express our feelings about Black lives. I want to live in a world where everybody is able to go on the streets and not have to hide or be discriminated. We all have to agree that Black lives matter, and Black lives do matter. We have to make sure that nobody is less than another or harming anybody just because of the color of their skin.” 

Melrose Leadership Academy student Andrés Pinero said he recognizes his privilege in society, so he marched for his Black classmates. He envisions a world where they feel safe. “When they grow up, I don’t want them to be afraid. I feel like we could use this energy right now for our friends in our community. I hope that everyone from any ethnicity can come together and shake each other’s hand in peace.”

“I just really want to spark a change”

(From left to right): Rhea, Amiri, Aila, Paloma, Natania (Photo: Sarah Belle Lin) Credit: Tracie Liao

Montclair Elementary School students Natania and Paloma were outspoken about why they showed up on Sunday.

“I have an eight-year-old brother, and I don’t want to lose him,” said Paloma, a student at Montclair Elementary. “I know people who have lost their family members due to police brutality. I just really want to spark a change in the world so that won’t keep happening.” 

Paloma said a Black Student Union recently formed at her school, and has given her a welcoming space to discuss ideas about how to achieve racial equality. “They’re not just ideas,” she said. “We will make them into something that is actually going to happen.”

Natania, also at Montclair Elementary, reflected on traumas suffered by past generations. “I don’t want the next generation to go through what our ancestors went through because of our race. I don’t want to be known as a criminal just walking down the street.” 

Both Natania and Paloma will be penning letters to California Governor Gavin Newsom. They say the message they want to underline is that Black lives matter.

Sarah Belle Lin is an independent journalist and photographer based in the East Bay.