MERCER ISLAND — The beauty in pain stretched across Lake Washington on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.
Rivian Smith, 80, and her 16-year-old granddaughter Laila were among hundreds who participated in the “Bridge to the Future” march in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. The event designed for children to participate was intended to prompt conversation and change so there isn’t a need for protests and displays of solidarity in the future because there’s true equality among people and an end to police brutality.
It’s a goal Smith, a Black woman, fought for in the late 1970s and ’80s as a parent of children at Mercer Island High. A goal she’s still willing to march for, grabbing her face mask and gloves to protect against the coronavirus plus her cane to walk the 4 miles across Lake Washington along a pathway on the I-90 bridge.
“When you look at all of the insurrections — the fall of Rome, the fall of apartheid, the French Revolution — it was led by young people,” said Smith, who was also accompanied by her white daughter-in-law Julie, 52. “While I couldn’t change the world for my children, my grandchildren are doing that.
“They have seen the pain that I’ve talked about and witnessed the killings of people their age that I used to talk about. And that’s the painful thing; they had to see that before change could come.”
Nathalie Wright, 33, and Tiffany Chancellor, 34, spent the past five days planning Saturday’s event, which was a first for the friends. Both are also wives of Seahawks players — linebackers K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor — and parents to young, Black sons.
Footage of George Floyd, a Black man, being killed in Minneapolis on May 25 when a white police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds made Tiffany and Nathalie want to take action. They regularly walk the bridge and had people meet at Aubrey Davis Park in Mercer Island and walk to East Portal Viewpoint park in Seattle.
A multicultural crowd wore face masks and carried signs with messages like “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “All Mothers Were Summoned When George Floyd Cried Out For His” as they walked. Cars and trucks honked horns as they sped past.
At the Seattle park, Wright held a moment of silence for victims and gave a brief speech.
“This world is not ours,” said Chancellor, who’s Black. “It belongs to the future and it’s our duty as caregivers, mothers and fathers to make this place better. But look at what’s going on. To be frank, Black men are still getting lynched in the streets and we have phones now where people can record it and you can see. That’s a problem.
“My grandmother grew up in the 1940s in Louisiana. She dealt with it. My mother dealt with it. I’ve dealt with it as a kid, and here we are, still dealing with it. We have to do something about it. When people come together, we can make big changes under God.”
Alisha Armstrong, 30, and Brady Long, 31, a white couple from Puyallup, made the drive with their 4-month-old and a toddler to participate. Armstrong said she was raised in an environment where racists comments were made. She and Brady felt it important to be part of the march to help learn from others how to educate their children.
“I lived in a community that was 98 percent white and wasn’t exposed to different cultures,” Armstrong said. “We want to raise our kids differently.”
Saturday’s event is part of a string of daily protests, marches and rallies that have been a national and global scene since Floyd’s death. The civil unrest has prompted change ranging from policies for policing to stores removing locked shelving for beauty products mainly used by Black girls and women.
In the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to players who spoke out against police brutality and announced the league offices will be closed June 19 to recognize “Juneteenth,’’ the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were finally notified of President Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation that granted their freedom in January 1863.
Wright and Chancellor were humbled by their part in raising awareness and bringing so many young families together, hoping they left inspired.
“This was pretty powerful,” said Laila of walking with her grandmother. “We were kind of far behind the rest of the group, but looking ahead and seeing the whole crowd of people move forward and how many people there actually were really made me feel like there’s change happening around me that’s close to home and not just seen through a screen happening in another state.”