Spotlight News Hampton Roads
Mindfulness March for Children
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
Words by Shanita Lee. Images as noted courtesy of J Renada Photography,
Rona Jane (who took the feature image), and the Mindfulness March for Children.
On Tuesday, June 2nd, I received a call from my sister-friend Ashley Houston expressing she wanted to host a march & protest for our kids. Her vision for the experience was clear from the moment of conception: to create a space for black children’s voices to be heard as they take part in speaking out against unmitigated injustice.
The aspiration came on the cusps of attending her first ever protest in Virginia Beach following the death of George Floyd. I remember prior to going, Ashley was torn on whether or not she would take along her oldest son (age 9). She opted not to because some of the protests in other areas had become extremely intense.
However, the overall experience left her inspired and motivated. Ashley realized the best way to ensure that her children had the opportunity to safely share in this portion of our fight against injustice, she would have to create that space herself. I’ve known Ashley since 2004 and she is also the God-Mother to all 5 of my children. If I have learned anything from being in her life for 16 years, I’ve learned that she is a doer and whatever she put her mind and heart to she completes with excellence. There was no hesitation to volunteer my time, services, and resources in support of my friend, our children, and our community.
Image by Rona Jane.
By Wednesday, the Mindfulness March for Children (MM4C) was officially underway. Almost immediately, word spread throughout Facebook like wildfire and within 24 hours had reached hundreds of people. So many parents had been looking for a child-friendly way to get their children involved and MM4C provided that opportunity for them. Soon, what initially started as an event for Ashley’s friends and family grew into an entire movement, being replicated by families in Richmond, VA, Olney, MD, and in Atlanta, GA (that was later renamed). All events were scheduled to take place just 5 short days away from its creation.
With a top notch team of co-hosts and volunteers the next few days were dedicated to ensuring that we could service an anticipated gathering of 500 parents and children. Everyone involved shared the common goal of making sure that the event was organized, insightful, child-friendly, and safe; we had admirable participation from the Chesapeake City Police and Fire Departments.
Image by J Renada.
MM4C was an experience to remember! As I stood there watching family after family arrive dressed in black with their hand crafted signs, I was filled with joy. Children were really excited and ready for whatever was asked of them. The event kicked off on schedule and opened with encouraging words and positive affirmations from Ashley. The time had finally come for the first of two groups to take that march down to one of Chesapeake’s busiest streets and demand fair treatment and justice for our black & brown men, women, and children. “No Justice, No Peace”, “Fighting for Equality”, “Black Lives Matter”, and “Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate” echoed for yards.
I watched in awe as the first group of nearly 300 people (all ages and races) disappear over the hill at the park entrance, to include my 5 year old son who was celebrating his birthday that day. All I could do was pray that this moment would be memorable for him and all of the children who were learning for the first time that no matter how sweet, kind, or loving they are, some people in this world may fear them or expect the worst from them simply because of the color of their skin.
Image by Rona Jane.
It was important to Ashley that each child be able to take something positive away from their experiences. When asked what impacted her the most from the march/protest, my 12 year old daughter, London, had this to say:
“The part that impacted me the most was walking around the basketball court for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. It made me realize how long 8 minutes really is and it made me sad for George Floyd that he was on the ground that long and couldn’t breathe. It’s not right. And I wish things like that would stop happening.”
Choosing to have people walk around the basketball courts for the duration of time that George Floyd was pinned down was one of two aspects of the march that helped people make a personal connection. The other aspect was closing out the event by reading 106 names of men and women whose lives were lost due to crimes committed against them because of racial fears. Hearing the names aloud was in support of the #SayTheirNames campaign; a movement that encourages publications and social media users to not just identify victims of police brutality by the incidents that killed them but to focus on their individual humanity.
Image by Rona Jane.
The Mindfulness March for Children was a success! I truly believe children were met at their levels and presented with ways they can continue to use their voices. The affirmations they repeated were inspiring. The chants they chanted were filled with hope. And the time they spent marching will be memorable. I pray this experience opened the door for more conversations with our young people and hope parents will keep lines of communication open in the home. I hope kids will be comfortable to ask questions and express their feelings about the world around them. And may we all take a page from Ashley Houston’s book and look for safe and inspiring ways to keep our kids involved as we continue on this challenging journey together.