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Kids speak out, demand voice

  • Naomi Paik, 8, of Northampton, left, Sasha Dengate, 8, of Williamsburg and Adelaide Amias, 7, of Northampton, all Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second graders, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second-graders Naomi Paik, 8, of Northampton, left, Sasha Dengate, 8, of Williamsburg, their adult allies Ro Sigle of Northampton and Safire DeJong of Holyoke, and PVCICS second-graders Julia Lu, 7, of Amherst and Adelaide Amias, 7, of Northampton, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Adelaide Amias, 7, of Northampton, left, and Sasha Dengate, 8, of Williamsburg, both Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second graders, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second-graders Julia Lu, 7, of Amherst, left, Adelaide Amias, 7, and kindergartner Alex Larke, 6, of Westfield, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second-grader Naomi Paik, 8, of Northampton, rallies April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Naomi Paik, 8, of Northampton, left, Adelaide Amias, 7, of Northampton and Sasha Dengate, 8, of Williamsburg, all Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second graders, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School second-graders Naomi Paik, 8, of Northampton, left, Sasha Dengate, 8, of Williamsburg, their adult allies Safire DeJong of Holyoke and Ro Sigle of Northampton and PVCICS second-graders Julia Lu, 7, of Amherst and Adelaide Amias, 7, of Northampton, rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Young children and their adult allies rally April 14, 2018 against ageism at Pulaski Park in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@mjtidwell781
Sunday, April 15, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — When second-graders organized a rally against ageism this weekend, adults turned out to support youth empowerment during a time of fear-inciting current events.

“I think this is a time when kids feel scared, with the political climate and school lockdown drills and hearing about gun control or the lack thereof,” said Anne Belt Ye, who came out to support with her own young son. “This is about wanting them to not feel fear, to feel like they do have a voice and they do have power.”

A small group of kids gathered on the raised dais at Pulaski Park on Saturday morning to address more than a dozen gathered parents, supporters, dog-walkers, and passers-by.

Before the weekend rally, Adelaide Clover Amias, Naomi Paik and Alice Chen, second-graders at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, passed out fliers at school and wrote a letter for their parents to share on Facebook and with others in the community.

“A lot of the planning happened in the back seat of carpool rides,” Naomi’s mom, Megan Paik, said. “I’m really excited and moved by the turnout today.”

Adelaide said adults often forget what it felt like to be young.

“We’re hoping to bring new awareness to global issues that relate to kids,” she said. “And we want to have a voice. Sometimes even when adults are trying to be respectful of us, it’s hard for them to listen to us.”

Her mom, Cat MacDonald-Amias, said she has seen Adelaide begin to notice fundamental differences in the way children and adults are treated as she gets older.

She said that since Adelaide came to her with the idea of organizing a rally, she’s also seen her daughter begin to grow more of a global awareness of the lives and situations of other children in different countries.

“My role is to listen and support,” MacDonald-Amias said.

Naomi and Adelaide collaborated on a speech that Adelaide read on Saturday, which touched on issues like polluted drinking water, trash polluting the oceans, and an entreaty to adults to educate children about climate change so that they may find solutions as they grow up.

“Listen to us, even though we are little,” she said in the speech. “It’s hard to be little, but it’s also hard to be a grown-up. Let’s listen and respect people of all ages.”

Two adults, Ro Sigle and Safire DeJong, joined the kids onstage afterward, saying they came to speak at the rally because their work is all about giving kids a voice.

Sigle works with the Pa’Lante Restorative Justice Program at Holyoke High School, keeping kids out of prison and in school, as well as creating spaces for students to organize and be heard. DeJong is a social justice and equity in schools specialist with the Collaborative for Educational Services.

“I came today because I believe that ending youth oppression is one of the most important steps on the pathway to the liberation of all people,” Sigle said before the rally. “It’s pretty emotional. I keep choking back tears because when I was young, I didn’t have the words or the confidence to speak up like these kids are.”

DeJong said adults can feel that because they had a difficult time as a kid, it’s something other kids simply have to endure. However, she said it doesn’t have to be that way and change can happen if adults take the time to listen to what children find unfair.

Onstage, Sigle and DeJong gave the onlooking adults homework: Listen deeply to young people, create deep, collaborative, respectful relationships with young people and reflect on personal experiences of being young.

When the crowd was asked what “kids’ rights” means to each of them, suggestions were thrown out, such as “treat kids like everyone else,” “get rid of the saying ‘kids should be seen and not heard’” and “speak to kids with the same amount of respect given to adults.”

Then, from a very, very young member of the audience, “nah, nyah, nah-nah,” which was met with applause, and the second-graders ended the rally with a march around the park.

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.