Students, parents and teachers walked out of Buena Vista Horace Mann school Wednesday morning to publicly declare their support for undocumented immigrants, women, and other targets of disparaging remarks made by president-elect Donald Trump.
Some 200 people of all ages streamed onto the sidewalk of Valencia Street, carrying signs made by the children with messages of solidarity, chanting “build kindness, not walls” and “We are not afraid.”
Drivers passing by honked their support with deafening frequency, and one group of taxi passengers hung their phones out the windows to take photos and waved as they passed the march. Several students were draped in Mexican, Colombian and other Latin American flags.
The intent, said teachers, students, and parents, was to unite in the face of fear that has taken hold of many of the students and their parents after a candidate who promised to deport millions of undocumented Americans was elected.
“We talked about, how are we nice to each other, what does being in a community mean?” said kindergarten teacher Debby Rosenthal. “Parents are worried about being deported, and the fear trickles down.”
One 13-year-old boy, who didn’t want to give his name, held a sign declaring “Undocumented students: In our classroom, there are no walls.”
“Students shouldn’t be scared,” he said. “Everyone should fight against fear, we all should be united. Because this is the United States.”
Teachers, parents and students from Fairmount Elementary School joined the march as well. A literacy coach at the school said it, like Buena Vista, is a Spanish immersion school, and educators fear that practice may be threatened.
“The future of that is uncertain,” said Monica Einudi, the literacy coach. Students and their parents are afraid they will be separated from their families or have to leave altogether, she added. The school has facilitated community circles for students to process their feelings, as well as a “peace wall” where students can share messages.
“Our kids immediately heard that it’s impacting their parents, and if not their parents, maybe their aunts or uncles,” she said. “The onus is on teachers to do a lot of explaining about what happened.”
Rosa, a 9-year-old student at Fairmount, held a sign saying “hate is nothing to be proud of” on one side and “don’t deport my friends” on the other. She estimated she has some 10 friends with immigrant families, including some from Mexico and others from the Philippines.
“[Trump] is racist and rude to different races,” she said. “Donald Trump is hateful. If you think you’re cool when you’re being hateful, it’s not.”
Haven, Hannah, and Katya, all 9-year-old Fairmount students, chimed in with their own reasons for joining the march – to reassure their friends that nobody should be afraid, to speak against mass deportation, to affirm that everyone, no matter how they look, has rights.
“We’re fighting for peace, we don’t want anyone to be afraid,” they said.
Angelica Hernandez, whose 6-year-old daughter attends Buena Vista Horace Mann and walked along side her in the march, said several of her family members are undocumented.
“This march is to support, to show that we’re all together, so that they don’t feel fear and they feel part of a community that’s united,” she said. “The parents feel like the school is actively supporting them.”
Two other parents, Claudia Juares and Mineldia Sanchez, agreed, saying they can go to the school for help with anything and feel very supported.
“We are here, and we’re not afraid,” said Juares.
“We marched for the future of our children, to ensure that they’re not afraid in anything that they go on to do,” added Sanchez.
Buena Vista Horace Mann principal Richard Zapien said the march was a “community outpouring” planned and co-created by students, staff and families.
“The intent is to speak love and community, and demonstrate to the families that we’re not afraid of rhetoric,” said Zapien. “We do not espouse hatred, we protect and defend students and families…we listen to them and give them voice.”