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Teens in Hicksville rally for racial equality, children learn with crafts in Central Islip

A Black Lives Matter protest for kids was held in Central Islip on Saturday, filled with snacks, crafts and discussion groups. Credit: Newsday / Shelby Knowles

More than 50 protesters, many of them teenagers, gathered outside Broadway Commons in Hicksville on Saturday evening to rally for racial equality, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace” to passing cars, many of which honked in approval.

Meanwhile Saturday afternoon, about two dozen parents and children stood off Carleton Avenue in Central Islip, making crafts and holding signs in a children’s protest for Black Lives Matter.

Before the Hicksville crowd started marching around 6 p.m., protest organizer Sophia Chaudri said she and her friend, Tara Sheth, felt inspired after attending a Juneteenth protest organized by Ariana Levin, 16, from Amityville to Seaford. The two 15-year-olds said they decided to bring the rally closer to home in Nassau.

“At the end of the day, even if one person goes home thinking that they were happy that they’ve gone [to the protest] or that they are a changed person in some minuscule way, that is enough for us,” said Chaudri, a student at Syosset High School. “We just really hope that everyone knows that this is not a moment. It’s a movement.”

With a bullhorn in hand, Judy Le of Farmingville, also an organizer, said she felt compelled to get involved because of her own experience growing up as an Asian and African American. The 21-year-old said she saw how her siblings were treated differently because of their darker skin tones.

“That was the biggest push [for me to be] a part of the Black Lives Matter [movement] because just seeing how my siblings were treated was not fair,” the Stony Brook University student said. “I think a lot of people think it was like a trend almost. But I want them to realize that it’s not a trend. This is going to keep going.”

Kiana Abbady, a 26-year-old Freeport activist, gave in an impassioned speech as marchers made a stop in a parking lot on West John Street, invoking the legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis, who died Friday at 80. 

“Unfortunately he passed away, but he left a message: we are starting good trouble,” she said, echoing the famous quote of Lewis “get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” “This is our Island as much as it is theirs. And it’s time that we make it equal for all.”  

As protesters marched, most drivers sounded approving honks. At least two drivers, however, yelled “blue lives matter,” which was encountered with louder chants of “Black lives matter.” 

Samantha Robillard, 35, of Central Islip, organizer of the Central Islip event, said she wanted to teach children about educating themselves about leadership and empathy.

“We’re here for our children, letting them know they have a voice and their voices matter,” Robillard said. “When you can do that at a young age, it’s important they know what’s going on in the world and one day they’ll be in charge. We’re teaching them they can be activists in their own community.”

Robillard’s son Antonio Esteves, 11, said he came to help protest for Black Lives Matter.

“What’s happening to people is completely wrong. Black people are being abused by police,” Esteves said. “You have a voice and you should use it.”

Children created crafts including rainbows and messages that said, “spread love” and paper chains of different shades of people holding hands.

Robillard's daughter, Josslyn, 8, said the paper people of different colors were to represent what is happening in the world and to encourage that everyone  be treated equally.

“You should treat people they way should be treated,” Josslyn Esteves said. “No matter what skin color they are, it shouldn’t matter as long as you’re nice.”

Britnae Tillett, 31, of Central Islip, said she wanted to teach children so they will tell friends at school who may not have learned the messages of their movement.

“We want to teach kids about equality and acceptance of other people and their differences,” Tillett said. “There are different shades of people and they’re making them in their own image. A person of every shape and color promotes togetherness.”

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