When Leslie Rodriguez’s daughter asked to go to a nearby Dollar Tree to pick up art supplies, she didn’t think twice.
“I’m thinking she just wants to do arts and crafts,” she said. “That evening she went into her room and she isolated herself and started writing sayings on different posters.”
Breanna, 11, had been discussing the death of George Floyd in her fifth grade class during remote learning. Her teachers at PS 72 in East Harlem – where Children’s Aid runs after-school programming –asked students to reflect on the recent police killings.
Breanna, who heard about George Floyd’s death through the news, decided to create posters highlighting other Black Americans who were murdered at the hands of police.
“I was like ‘wow, this is the world that we’re living in,’” she said. “I couldn’t put it into words how disappointed I was and how saddened I was that that happened.”
With the support of her teachers, Fernando Alvarez and Jeff Zohn, Breanna set out to hold a protest in her Bronx community. To get the word out, educators posted information about the protest on online parent boards.
Leslie had no idea her daughter was planning a protest until Mr. Zohn contacted her – just three days before the protest was scheduled to take place. But once she heard, she immediately began to help.
Breanna and her parents created a sign and posted it near their house to alert their neighbors about the event.
On June 12, around 30 of Breanna’s neighbors, teachers, and other Bronx community leaders marched through Crotona Park in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Breanna’s classmates, who could not join in person, viewed the livestream through Google Meets.
Breanna said she was surprised so many people attended and was glad to see that her protest encouraged other young people, who came with their parents, to express their feelings
“There are a lot of kids that don’t tell their parents what they feel about what’s going on,” she said. “There were two or three kids that were really happy to be there. They’re talking about this and they’re saying their feelings. Their parents looked shocked that they were even talking about it.”
Leslie, who said she was extremely saddened to hear about George Floyd’s death, credits her daughter for helping her get involved.
“If it wasn’t for her I can honestly say like everyone else I would’ve stayed on the sidelines,” she said. “I’m happy that I know we are raising her to see that whether you’re Black, white, Spanish, you’re a human being. It’s not about the color of your skin.”
Since she held the protest, Breanna has been invited to speak at a kid’s march in Central Park. She said she will continue to go to protests and would like to to see the president’s attitude change.
In a tweet last month, the president instructed law enforcement to “go out there and get them” in regards to protestors.
“That is not the right thing that we need right now for the leader of America to actually say that,” she said. “And it just makes the Black community more scared. He should make all Americans feel safe.”