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ShiShi Rose is getting kids into the Black Lives Matter conversation

Writer and activist ShiShi Rose wants kids to get involved in the conversation on race.

Rose, 26, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, organized a rally last week for kids and adults to combat police brutality in Foley Square and Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan. About 50 people attended.

“We have to talk to them about the issues, but it’s not one singular talk, it’s a continuous talk about how to survive while being of color in America,” Rose said in an interview. “It needs to be an ongoing conversation for all children, and not just children of color, but especially white children, because they are the ones that are growing up to do the things that we’re all fighting against.”

Rose says she has taken up the cause of engaging with her social media followers to keep them educated. Because of the volume of questions and comments, four other people helped her respond until recently, when she decided to run the account on her own. Currently, she boasts a following of more than 30,000 followers on Instagram and blogs on her own site as well.

“We were one of the few people actually talking to people one-on-one and actually answering their questions back. I noticed that a lot of accounts, they wouldn’t really respond to anybody, or they didn’t know how, so we did a lot of research,” she said. “I’ve learned so much in the past couple years just about my own self and culture and about how to tackle these issues in general. I was very uneducated about a lot of topics before I started doing this.”

Word was spread about the rally through Instagram; “Girls” actress, writer, producer and director Lena Dunham shared Rose’s original post to her 2.7 million followers on Instagram. Rose said she didn’t think the post made much of a difference in the rally’s turnout, but she has seen an impact on social media.

“I know that just reading some of the comments after Lena [Dunham] posted that, people were just like, ‘Why get kids involved in this?’ There was not as much positivity as I would have hoped for,” Rose said. “Since she’s done that and some of her followers came over to me, I’ve had to deal with their lack of understanding in a lot of topics. They’re not going to get it because they’re not black, no matter how educated some of these people are.”

In Rose’s original post, she wrote, “I especially better see white kids there. If children of color can grow up in a system and experience racism, then no, your young white child is not to [sic] young to learn about racism and help fight against it.”

“I was actually happy that so many white children came and that after the protest, I got a lot of direct messages asking me if I could try to explain to them how they could educate their white children about racism,” she said. “A lot of parents don’t think their children should be exposed to this kind of thing, that their children are innocent and that they don’t see color ... but if black kids have to go through racism, there’s no reason that white kids shouldn’t have to learn not to do it, or about what the other kids go through.”

Couple Benjamin O'Keefe and Matt Speed went to
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Couple Benjamin O'Keefe and Matt Speed went to the rally together to take a stand and support others.

"As a person of color, I think it's important for us to take a stand for black lives that are under attack," O'Keefe said.

"I'm just here to support as well, it's definitely a cause that I believe in and support, so I'm taking a stand for my boyfriend as well," Speed said.

O'Keefe said that he was excited about the presence of kids at the rally.

"I think that it's incredibly important -- kids have to be involved, POC kids have to realize that there's real threats to their lives and that we should stand together and make it so that kids like them don't grow up to be men who are murdered, and I think for white kids it's important for them to understand their privilege and that they don't have the same risks that brown children do, and that they definitely have to do something about it, to use their voice and their privilege," O'Keefe said.

Jessica McElligott, of Crown Heights, said she brought
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Jessica McElligott, of Crown Heights, said she brought her 6-year-old son Maddox McElligott to the rally to teach him more about what's going on in the world.

"It's important. And it's important for kids to be a part of this," McElligott said. "I'm raising the future. It's my job as a mom to be a part of the solution. We can come together as a community, this is really important in our world right now."

Maddox McElligott said that he liked coming to rallies, and though he didn't know why it was important yet, he was looking forward to getting one of the hand-decorated shirts emblazoned with the names of gun violence victims that had been laid out on the park's benches.

Jeni Rosa, 25, brought her 3-year-old sister, Aleena
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Jeni Rosa, 25, brought her 3-year-old sister, Aleena Rosa, along.

"We're here because we want people of color to have value in our society," Rosa said. "We already have it as human beings by nature, but some people seem not to understand that. So we're here to bring awareness, but also teach our kids that we need to love each other, respect and value each other."

Brooklyn resident LaTanya Staubs, who has two children,
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Brooklyn resident LaTanya Staubs, who has two children, 5-year-old River and 2-year-old Oak (pictured with his mother above), spoke at the rally.

"We thought raising them in New York they'd get to see other kids, they'd get to see other black kids," Staubs said. "For a really long time, I thought that was enough, that they just had to see it to believe it to be normal...I had to educate myself about my children as far as being black kids with a white father, and my husband is still educating himself."

Rose read from some of her writing, talking
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Rose read from some of her writing, talking about the kind of freedom available to people of color.

"We call it the land of the free, but that freeness only exists within certain bodies ... We are free to dance for you, play sports for you, entertain you, but not free to live long enough to fight against you," Rose said.

Speaking to the group, she said that the
Photo Credit: Emily Schienvar

Speaking to the group, she said that the rally was important because of the support it was able to provide. She wanted the rallies and meetups to become an ongoing event.

"Every conversation should have the word next in it," she said.

Going forward, Rose said that she will be working on a bill requiring NYPD officers to wear working body cameras at all times. Currently, the NYPD does not have a body camera policy, but has proposed a plan to issue about 1,000 cameras to officers as part of a one-year pilot program.

In a later interview, Rose also noted that she hopes to hold more of these protests and rallies and keep children involved in the conversation.

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