Utah families learn black history while marching for Black Lives Matter

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Families walk around Rock Canyon Park in Provo, Utah, looking at short biographies of influential black children during a Black Lives Matter march on June 18. (Preston Crawley)

Parents, children and members of the community marched around the grassy field of Rock Canyon Park Thursday evening to learn about black children past and present and to express their awareness of racial injustice. 

Families started the march at the pavilion where supplies were provided to create signs and posters that they could hold throughout it. At the end of the march, everyone was encouraged to make a pledge on how they can support the Black Lives Matter movement.

For half a mile, strollers and scooters freely circled the park and periodically stopped at different locations marked with black balloons that presented stories of black children involved in the Civil Rights Movement. 

A family holds signs during the march. Supplies were provided at the Provo Family March for children and families to make their own signs. (Preston Crawley)

The march was organized by two mothers in Provo who wanted to empower children to be a part of the movement.

Rian Krommenhoek, one of the mothers who planned the march, was inspired to organize it after a civil rights history tour she took in her home state of Alabama three years ago. 

She said that was where she learned about the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham for the first time. It was inspiring to her to learn about how black children stepped up for their parents despite the violence that they knew they would face. 

“It was a really scary time and they were met with massive force,” she said. “There were water cannons and dogs and so many children were put in the prisons.”

Krommenhoek believed that this was a turning point for white moderates to understand the racial injustice that was happening and become more willing to be involved. She hopes that the stories displayed at the march had the same effect on the families who came. 

“I hope they’ll be inspired by the stories and know the children who made a difference so that they’ll feel empowered to make a difference,” she said. 

Short biographies of influential black children were placed around Rock Canyon Park and marked with a pair of black balloons. (Preston Crawley)

Kimmy Crosby, Krommenhoek’s friend and co-organizer of the march, hopes that the invitation to make a pledge at the end will help solidify the inspiration from reading the different stories. “I hope that through the pledge everyone will think of specifically what this means to them and what they can walk away with and really, truly make a change for themselves.”

Sebastian and Alex Stewart-Johnson from Unified Allies 4 Change were also in attendance and helped promote the event on social media. “The more they hear about it, the more change that can happen,” Sebastian said.

They both recognize that the protests will simmer down but believe events like the march will continue to help educate families and children.

“If we can get to the family first before the world does with all this negativity and push messages of love, then we have a better chance of changing the world in the future,” Alex said.

BYU English professor Amber Jensen and her husband, Matt McDonald, were happy to bring their 18-month-old son to the family-friendly event. 

“It’s really cool to see parents of older kids doing some teaching and learning along the march,” Jensen said. “I feel like it reflects this Provo community.”

A family stops read about Marley Dias while marching at Rocky Canyon park. (Preston Crawley)

McDonald thinks that it’s important to have children to be a part of conversations dealing with racial issues and teaching them about it at a young age.

Brianna Webb, a mother of five, had her children scooter around the park with signs in front that said “Black Lives Matter.” She believes that being educated about black history should go beyond Black History Month and instead last throughout the year.

“We should learn from accurate portrayals of history instead of just sugarcoating it,” she said. “Also, I think ongoing community support and activities would be good too.” 

Families march around Rock Canyon Park with others to support the Black Lives Matter movement. (Preston Crawley)

Milli Dadson from Vineyard brought her four children to the event after a friend sent her a message about it on Instagram. 

Dadson appreciated that there was no tension among those that attended and that it felt like the best environment for learning. 

“I learned some things,” she said. “Some of these stories I’ve never even heard before.”

Her 16-year-old daughter, Janelle Dadson, also enjoyed the educational environment. 

“I like how inviting it was,” she said. “There’s a lot of controversy, but I feel that this is more just educational.” 

Dadson believes that families interacting with different people will help be a part of the solution of racial injustice in the community. 

“I think families will have to be a little bit more deliberate in creating friendships with other families that might not necessarily look the same or have the same culture,” she said. “It opens up your world if you let a variety of people in.”

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