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In Louisville, A 13-Year-Old Leads A Kids' Protest For Racial Justice

Thirteen-year-old J.J. Hayden leads a kids' march for racial justice.
Thirteen-year-old J.J. Hayden leads a kids' march for racial justice.

89.3 WFPL News Louisville · In Louisville, A 13-Year-Old Leads A Kids' Protest For Racial Justice


On Tuesday, a group of about 20 Louisville children held a kids’ protest for racial justice. The idea came from 13-year-old J.J. Hayden, who led the group through downtown Louisville, chanting.

"We have the same power to fight just like the adults do. I feel like our voices really matter," Hayden said.

The group met near Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School in Louisville's West End. Hayden, who is Black, was holding a sign that said "My Family Matters," in red marker.

Hayden said he’s been afraid of losing his life at the hands of police ever since he heard about the killing of Ferguson teenager, Michael Brown, in 2014. He would have been about seven years old then. Since the death of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, Hayden and his mom have been talking a lot about police brutality and racism.

"I told her how I’m scared about walking down the street, and if a police is going to come from behind me and run me down just because I have my hood on," he said.

Katrice Gills said she was devastated to hear J.J. speak aloud this fear.

"My heart dropped," Gills said. Gills was very proud of her son for organizing this protest with her help, and assistance from other local organizers. But she wished he didn't have to.

"It’s a dope feeling," she said. "But it’s kind of like why, you know? Like why do we have to do this?"

Marching along in the group was 11-year-old Viva Maynard with her sister and mom. Maynard, who is White, said the first time she realized police treat Black people differently was when she heard about the killing of Philando Castile in 2016. She was 6 years old.

"I thought, 'this is a one-time thing, this doesn’t happen that often,'" she said. "And then I started to hear about more and more, and I was like 'wait a minute, this is the real world, we need to change this. This has been going on for too long.'"

Thirteen-year-old Leah Davis was also marching with her family. Davis is White, and her two younger siblings are Black, so she says she’s typically been more aware of racism than many of her White friends. But now, she said, some of them are waking up.

"People are finally educating themselves," she said. "A lot of people I know who weren’t educated are finally starting to educate themselves and learn things."

At the front of the march, Hayden was hopeful too that this moment will bring a change, and that one day he won’t have to be afraid of police.

"It’s gonna take time, but I feel like it will," he said. "I’m going to fight until they do change."

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.