You don’t need to say a lot to make change.
That’s the philosophy of 7-year-old Noah Thomas, who marched through Crofton alongside his mother, Zoe, and about 500 protesters of all ages on Wednesday.
When asked how it felt to be surrounded by kids like him, holding signs and chanting, he responded simply, “Good.” Seeing the video of George Floyd’s killing made him: “sad. ... It was racism.”
Being at the Black Lives and Allies of Anne Arundel County march meant more than he could say. It was his idea to come to the protest after he saw a sign while riding his bike.
“He said, ‘Mommy, we have to go tomorrow. It’s going to be at Wegmans, it’s right up the street,’" Zoe Thomas recalled.
The march, led by Hana Hawthorne, 20, was part of daily protests denouncing police violence against black people that have continued from Anne Arundel to D.C. and Baltimore to across the nation since May 30.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kept his knee pinned on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Chauvin was arrested and initially charged with third-degree murder though the Minnesota prosecutor later shifted it to second-degree murder. Three of his colleagues on the police force were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Before they marched, Hawthorne asked the crowd to get involved in their local government and advocate for all Anne Arundel County police officers to get body cameras.
“We the people have a voice and they are finally starting to listen to us,” she said.
Hawthorne led the group in a two-mile loop from the Wegmans parking lot across Route 3, down Johns Hopkins Road, Riedel Road and Nantucket Drive.
At one point, Noah told his mom his feet were getting a little tired. His mother reminded him that was a small sacrifice to make for an important cause. Martin Luther King Jr. had marched for justice just like they were doing, she told him, and he had passed the mantle to them.
“You’re a little black boy and one day you’re going to grow up to be a black man. Your rights are at stake right now,” Thomas recalled telling her son.
As they walked, people driving by honked their horns, waved and raised their fists in solidarity. Others came out of their houses to watch and chant along, sometimes with protest signs.
Jerri Stewart, her son Jonas and his friends popped their head up from over their wooden fence to watch the march and chant along.
Jonas, 10, and a scholar of Noah’s philosophy, said watching hundreds of people pass by his house felt “great.”
“The solidarity makes you want to cry,” his mother said.
Carla and Mike Crompton didn’t know the protest was going to happen, but when they heard the chants of “Not one more” and “White silence is violence,” they grabbed their signs from protests they attended in Prince George’s County and ran outside to support the crowd.
Carla Crompton’s sign read, “How many weren’t filmed?”
“We care. People in Crofton, people across the nation care,” she said. “It’s time that everybody knows we need to come together.”
For Melissa Collazo, of Piney Orchard, explaining racism and the death of George Floyd to her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, was a delicate conversation. But it was important for her to bring them to the march.
As she sat in her stroller with her stuffed dinosaur in her lap, Collazo’s daughter proudly held up a sign she made of a rainbow pasted onto popsicle sticks.
“They understand that everyone deserves happiness. They understand that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and they care that we live in a world that does not do that,” Collazo said.
“(Being in the protest) is instilling values and providing them that baseline of integrity that they’ll hopefully take with them for the rest of their lives.”
But children aren’t the only ones learning about racism right now.
The Morning Sun
Neal Krusban, Hana Hawthorne’s step-father, said she and her siblings have taught him a lot and he’s been able to teach his friends in turn. He is white and his step-children are biracial.
“I didn’t even know what white privilege really meant. It wasn’t until they were older and into their teenage years they were telling me I have it and I was like ‘What are you talking about,'” Krusban said.
“I’ve learned a lot of things about growing up in a white neighborhood and having predominantly white friends. ... I’m optimistic this time we might see systemic positive change.”
Capt. Daniel Rodriguez, commanding officer of Anne Arundel County Police’s Western District, marched alongside the protesters. He said he’s ready to learn more.
“We have to listen before we talk as police. Listen to our community and then come up with solutions that make us better as a society and as a profession of law enforcement,” Rodriguez said.
“We had, with what happened with the death of George Floyd, a complete disintegration of all of the gains we’ve made in the community with the criminal murderous actions of those officers. ...
When you see movements like this, people from all over doing what we did today and doing it peacefully, we’re going to make change together."