SOUTH JORDAN — Armed with sippy cups and fruit snacks, herding children on scooters or pushing babies in strollers, hundreds of Utahns marched through the meticulously planned streets of Daybreak Wednesday night in an effort to raise awareness about systemic racism.
The march from one community park to another attracted about a thousand people, mostly families, and ended with a song and solidarity. It was planned by a group of mothers who hope to inspire change — both in the adults in their communities and in the children they’re all raising.
“It was just a group of five moms, and we thought, ‘What the heck can we do to involve our kids?’” said Brooke Stapleton, one of the organizers of Wednesday’s march. “We just felt like our community needed this, but we also wanted to involve our kids.”
Stapleton and her husband have attended a number of protests, but she said they never felt comfortable taking their young children. Wednesday’s march was a chance to inspire her own children and maybe spark some conversations that will create a better, more welcoming community for all children.
“I really just hope we create some momentum,” Stapleton said. “As corny as it is, these kids really are the future. I hope these kids go into their classrooms and that they can celebrate color.”
She said she hoped they would celebrate their differences and diversity, and she plans to help that happen by staying involved in local government and her neighborhood schools. Despite her passion, she said she was shocked to see how much the community embraced the idea of a family protest.
“To see a huge group of people come together in solidarity was awesome,” Stapleton said. “It takes your breath away. This is just amazing to see that we all care. ... It was so exciting.”
Among those marching was Vanessa Bryant, who lives in South Jordan with her 2- and 5-year-old children. She marched with friends, who also brought their young children.
“We just wanted to be here to support the movement, as it matters to us, obviously,” said Bryant, who is black and grew up in Murray. “To be a part of something like this is nothing that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
Because black people make up less than 2% of Utah’s overall population, life in the Beehive State can be an isolating experience. But marching with the other families Wednesday night, even though the crowd was still overwhelmingly white, felt different, she said.
“It’s honestly an amazing feeling, just to feel like the community is pulling together to stand for things that the black community has been fighting for for a long time,” Bryant said. “I feel like allies are standing up with us. It feels better, and it feels momentous. So it’s important for me and my kids and my family to be a part of that.”
Those who marched held the same signs carried through some of America’s biggest cities, and they filled the air with the same chants that floated above communities on fire. From “No justice, no peace!” to “Whose streets? Our streets!” the protesters chanted as they marched past brightly colored homes with perfectly manicured yards.
They obeyed traffic signals and were finished by dinner. But don’t mistake their impeccable manners for a lack of passion.
“I hope that policy changes happen to support what we’re trying to do here,” Bryant said. “That black lives do matter, and that shows in all of our policy reforms. ... We can speak about it, but let’s act on it too.”
Clotile Bonner-Farkas, who was raised in northern Utah and now lives in Provo with her husband and 3-month-old son, graced the crowd with a song at the end of the march.
“It’s finally clicking that this is an American problem,” said Bonner-Farkas, who is a black woman married to a white man. “And we as Americans have to have to stand up in this moment to change it. And that’s the only way to change is to recognize this is our history. We are one people. We are one nation, and it’s something that we have to fix together. It’s amazing that he finally finally got it.”
Like Bryant, she said this time the moment feels different.
“I mean, here we are in Daybreak, Utah, as cute and as cookie cutter as you can get, and unapologetically people are coming out and standing for what is right,” Bonner-Farkas said. “And I’m blown away. It’s so great.”
Amy and Casey Twitty, who are white, traveled from Eagle Mountain with their three children, who are black, to participate in the march.
“We came to support Black Lives Matter, and we’re here to make a difference,” Casey said. “There needs to be change that happens, and it starts in the home.”
Their oldest daughter, Oliva, 12, said she wasn’t sure she wanted to participate in the march until they arrived at the park.
“Now that I’m here, I’m glad I came,” she said. “To be honest, I just wanted to stay home and watch TV. ... I just wasn’t sure (what it was about).”
Amy Twitty said she and her husband have attended a number of protests and rallies, but Wednesday’s march allowed them to show solidarity as a family.
“We wanted to introduce them to this,” said Twitty. “It is everywhere. People say it’s (racism) not in Utah, but it is in Utah.”
She said the first few times people said something to her about her oldest daughter’s ethnicity “were shocking.”
“It’s shocking every time,” she said. “We think we’ve come so far. ... This has felt different, and it’s felt stronger. It’s given us hope. ... My hope is that families talk about more. That this doesn’t end after two or three weeks, that it has some long-term effect.”
She cries when she reflects on the incidents that sparked the protests, including the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” she said. “But like I said, too, it’s been hopeful that this is happening.”
Stapleton, who managed a diaper change while checking the sound equipment, said seeing so many moms marching inspired her.
“I thought it was so cool to see a lot of moms with a lot of kids,” she said. “It takes effort to get your kids out there. I was just so impressed. ... Now let’s start voting, let’s take this to schools.”