29 Jan March Honors MLK’s Legacy of Involvement
By Maria Bernal
The butterflies attached to colorful wool strings flew with the demonstrators as they advanced from the Richmond College Prep Charter School entrance.
That’s where the school’s community engagement coordinator, Tana Monteiro — with the assistance of the 5th-grade council — held the 13th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March on Jan. 17. This year’s theme was “Migration is Beautiful.”
It was a collaboration with the East Bay Youth Protest Art Project titled, “The Butterfly Effect,” also the name of the youth-led movement founded by 11-year-old Bay Area activist Lilly Ellis.
The collaboration inspired Richmond students to take to the sun-dried streets with handcrafted, rainbow-like butterflies to show solidarity with more than 76,000 immigrant children held in U.S detention centers last year.
“Butterflies symbolize that migration is beautiful, and they are all different and beautiful in their own way, just like people,” Ellis said.
As the bells rang at the end of the school day, squeaking sneakers flooded out of the school’s entrance as some children took their butterflies home. But four ponytailed girls admired the details of their butterflies with warm smiles, as a toddler wearing a pink beanie comfortably observed from a stroller before joining the march.
The Peace March was led by Stanley Navarro and Salvador Garcia, representatives of the 5th-grade student council. Navarro kicked off the March chanting “1,2,3,4,5. We will keep the dream alive” through a megaphone as the demonstrators made their way to the corner of Harbor Way and Florida Avenue.
“I want to help the cause,” Navarro said. “I have a special place in my heart for speaking the truth and standing up for people.”
Protestors stretched along 500 feet of sidewalk as parents and children held posters quoting the civil rights leader.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” was one prominent quote protestors used to connect with the adversity children face at the southern border.
The crowd followed Navarro, Garcia, and Monteiro through Martin Luther King Jr. Park and back to the school for a rally.
Students as young as kindergarteners took the stage and soulfully recited Dr. King’s words, ones they found to be especially relevant.
“It motivated me after hearing his speech,” Garcia said. “People are being bullied for how they are.”
After the children spoke, teachers led them in singing the civil rights song “We Shall Overcome.”
Butterflies in hand, the students sang deeply, some closing their eyes as the beautiful harmony arose.
“The roots are strong here,” Monteiro said about Richmond. “Hard times make people strong and powerful.”
The butterflies were then collected to be sent to the San Ysidro border, brightening decorations for children being held there. The Butterfly Effect will also send art supplies to detention centers, so migrant children can create their own butterflies.
“It’s important because we are humans and should have equal rights,” Navarro said. “We have a strong influence. I want to speak about what’s happening.”
Dr. King’s cry for equality continues to ripple through generations, as young activists pick up that torch as they witness inequity in their worlds.
“It’s about the kids. I wanted them to have a voice,” Monteiro said. “It’s healing to have someone listen to them.”