They may be young, but the dozens of 4th graders who marched along Atlantic Avenue Friday afternoon are determined to have their voices heard.
Unhappy with the Trump administration’s executive orders against immigrants and Muslims, members of Kids for a Better Future (KBF), a non-profit organization run by children and dedicated to helping children-in-need, decided to organize a march to declare “Brooklyn Belongs to All of Us.”
Freya Grant and Satya Shaw, two 9-year-old members of KBF and classmates at Saint Ann’s School, co-organized Friday’s event.
“KBF is really mad with all the things that Trump is doing to exclude different [people]—Muslims, gays, immigrants…so we want to say that in Brooklyn, everyone is welcome,” Shaw said.
“It’s important that everyone gets their voice heard because right now, the President thinks that we serve him, but the truth is that he serves us,” Grant added. “I just feel like what’s happening right now…I can’t even explain how unfair, selfish, and rude it is. I just feel like Donald Trump doesn’t even know what being kind is.”
All the members of KBF unanimously agreed to hold the march during a meeting following the Yemeni bodega strike rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on February 2nd. Many of the KBF members attended that rally as well as the Women’s March in Washington DC.
Grant and Shaw had the opportunity to attend the Women’s March after a friend’s parent coordinated a bus trip to DC for the event.
“It was the most amazing day of my life,” Shaw said of his experience, “Just seeing all those people, expressing their feelings, saying their opinions, without holding anything back. They just said what they believed. At one point, I turned around and it was like an ocean of people…. I was overwhelmed with happiness.”
“I just want to tell all those people who went to that march, ‘You have been heard in so many different countries.’ It was just amazing,” Grant said. “By going to that march, you made yourself more powerful than Trump,” Shaw added.
“I saw all these posters and…probably my favorite poster said, “IKEA has better cabinets,” Grant recalled.
For their own march with KBF, Shaw said, “We’re going to try to make ourselves heard and say, ‘Everybody, you are welcome here in New York.’ Nobody can say, ‘Go away.’ They just can’t. You’re allowed to be here.”
“Donald Trump, he can’t touch us,” Grant added. “We’re not going to let him.” She continued, “We want to make the world a happier place. Some people think it’s impossible, but if we all get together…share our feelings…do it without feeling aggressive or angry…do everything peacefully, calmly, and kindly, then we can make the world a calm and happy place.” “And peaceful,” Shaw added.
Kids for a Better Future was founded in 2006 by a group of Brooklyn school children (most from Saint Ann’s School). The original KBF founders are now in college but still mentor the new guard of approximately 40 fourth graders from schools throughout Brooklyn who are carrying on their legacy of advocacy work.
Each year, KBF focuses on a different cause to support—raising money and advocating for it. This year they are supporting the Coalition for the Homeless. The kids have helped the homeless by serving in soup kitchens and passing out packed lunches at Penn Station; collecting warm clothing, toys, and canned food in a winter drive; and raising $3,000 for the organization. Last year KBF raised $25,000 for the Malala Fund.
“We want to give everyone a happy life, we want to give every child a happy life,” Grant explained. “We want to help them get a good education and be safe.”
On the unseasonably warm and sunny Friday, the group of junior advocates chanted and marched from Brooklyn Borough Hall down Court Street, across Atlantic Avenue, and up Hicks Street to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, passing several Muslim-owned businesses along the way. Several business owners came out of their shops to cheer the kids on, as did many passersby who also chanted along with them and took pictures on their phones. The uplifting event closed with the kids singing “Imagine” on the Promenade with the Statue of Liberty in view from the distance.
“That was awesome! This is the second-best day of my life,” Shaw excitedly said following the march.
Fellow KBF member, Grady Belt, a student at PS 32 in Gowanus and Shaw’s best friend, was also feeling happy. He said his reason for marching was, “to make more people want to fight for immigrants…and send the message to [immigrants] that we’re in this too.”
Both Belt and Shaw would like to organize more marches, and hope that kids from local Arab and Bangladeshi communities will be able to join them in the future. KBF invited members of the Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services to march with them but they were unable to join due to the school winter break schedule.
All kids from schools around the city are welcome to join KBF. When asked what he would tell someone who is unsure about joining the group, Belt said “I would tell them if you want to be involved in something big at this young age, it would be a great opportunity.”
“My favorite part of this, and the most encouraging thing, was when we passed people and they started cheering us on, that was so encouraging,” Shaw said.
And this young advocate will not be deterred adding, “I saw a few people frowning at us, but we just sang louder.”