Getting involved: Participation in the Black Lives Matter movement this summer

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Sophia Beckmann

The peace walk was held by Kirkwood Teachers of Color.

Tear gas. Protesters. Batons. Pepper spray. Arrests. Police Brutality. These calls for action filled the streets of not only St. Louis, but the nation, in the weeks following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The acceleration of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests inspired many KHS students and faculty members to discover ways they could advance the cause. Three individuals, in particular, took initiative to better the St. Louis community by not only doing their part, but inspiring involvement among others

When Amaya Marion, senior, started working to restart the Young Democrats Club with her fellow seniors. One of their first goals was to hold a lemonade stand to help raise money for Action St. Louis, a grassroots organization that seeks to build political power for Black communities in the St. Louis area. 

“When we started planning the lemonade stand, we contacted a lot of businesses to see what they would be willing to donate,” Marion said. “[Raising] Cane’s ended up donating the lemonade to us, so that was really great.”

The Young Democrats do not plan to stop there though. According to Marion, they intend to actively involve themselves with the BLM movement in the future. 

“We are just getting started again, but we have a lot of ideas. We were thinking about doing a protest, but because of COVID[-19] cases we might have to wait on that,” Marion said. “I know we plan on doing lots of fundraisers and that we are keeping in contact with a few people who plan to run for government. [We] are getting involved in those [campaigns] and volunteering.” 

It wasn’t only students that wanted to help support the BLM movement, as some faculty members also participated. Multiple former and current KHS faculty members, including Roberta McWoods, Master Mentor for Kirkwood Teachers of Color, attended a protest in Glendale. According to McWoods, the idea to hold a peace walk came to them during the Glendale protest. The peace walk was held by Kirkwood Teachers of Color and originally supposed to be a sidewalk march with an expected turnout of about 500 — but the numbers turned out to be much higher.

“As we began pushing it out, we noticed it was getting a lot of traction,” McWoods said. “People were contacting me, from alumni to citizens of Kirkwood, asking me how they could help or what they could do. [After a few days], we clearly knew that this was going to be bigger than we originally thought.”

As McWoods and KHS administration began discussing logistics, they were aware that it might be bigger than a sidewalk march. Yet they decided they would do the best they could to contain themselves and stay off of the roads. 

“On the day of the walk there were hundreds of people there even before it started,” McWoods said. “By the time we started walking, the police just gave us the street. We still aren’t sure how many people [attended] but we thought it was around a few thousand.”

According to McWoods, this was the first peace walk that was put on by a school in the St. Louis region. She thinks that might have been why it gained as much support as it did. That traction even led to the story getting picked up by the New York Times.
“It definitely shocked me when I saw the amount of people that came from the Kirkwood community to support the Peace Walk,” McWoods said. “Seeing people come from every walk of life and show up was really cool.”

You can’t say you believe in something and then not back it.”

Other students have also shown their support for the BLM movement through various actions such as signing petitions, donating money to a variety of activist organizations and attending protests. Lily Dayan, senior, has been especially active in the movement and has attended around 11 protests throughout the St. Louis area.

“I’ve really spent my whole summer trying to get my voice out there and get justice,” Dayan said. “I want to continue going to protests and continue to get my voice out and doing anything that I can to move the movement.” 

According to Dayan, these protests are a huge part of the movement, and it is important to her that she is not only involved, but also getting others involved. She encourages people to get involved anyway that they can.

“It is really cool at these protests to see how everyone comes together to voice their thoughts and opinions on such an intense issue,” Dayan said. “For me, it’s important. It’s not really a choice, it’s just something I have to do. I have to go to these protests, I have to stand up for what I believe in. You can’t say you believe in something and then not back it.”