Children get a voice in Darien art walk for inclusivity
Have brown eyes? That’s beautiful.
Got blue eyes? That’s beautiful, too.
Being proud of whatever attributes one is born with was one of the messages of Saturday’s peaceful Children’s Art Walk for Inclusivity.
“We always want what we don’t have, but we need to start being appreciative of what we do have,” said Sofia Talwalkar, 18, who is a member of the 2020 Darien High School graduating class.
“If you have green eyes, purple eyes — whatever you have, be appreciative that you have these beautiful eyes to see the world,” Sofia said.
The goal of the walk, which began at the Darien Library and ended on the grass near Town Hall, was to encourage conversations about diversity, bias, race and inclusion in families with children.
More than 100 people participated. All wore masks and kept a safe social distance.
Darien mothers Armel Jacobs and Diane Urban were among the many local mothers who organized the event, which took several weeks to plan.
For the walk, children were asked to create an original piece responding to the prompt: “celebrating our differences.”
Inspiring messages and drawings with that theme were displayed on posters and carried by children of all ages.
Several planned activities for children included a wishing tree, where they were asked to think about a wish they have for the town or for the world. Children as well as event organizers read some of the wishes out loud.
Their artwork and written wishes were also displayed on tree branches. They were also encouraged to send their work to email@example.com, where it will be displayed in a virtual art show.
There was also a station to get the art work photographed.
There was a special musical performance by two teens, as well as a reading of the Shel Silverstein poem “Colors” by an 11-year-old Darien resident.
“It’s really about empowering the kids and having them feel like what they have to say is also important,” Jacobs told The Darien Times while on the march.
She said whenever there are intense issues the adults around them are talking about, “the children feel it too.”
Darien resident Mackenzie Maier, 14, said it’s “cool that we’re starting educating children younger and keeping the inclusivity throughout all ages, so that they can all learn about diversity. “
Alison Gurusaransingh of Weston, who was at the walk with her 3-year-old son Chase, said growing up in the 1980s in Darien, she doesn’t remember noticing people of color. “There was no differences in Darien at that point,” she said.
“It’s important for our children to learn to celebrate differences. It’s as simple as that,” she said. “Especially in a town that’s very homogeneous, it’s important to talk about race and to not ignore it. Some of these kids grew up maybe not even seeing someone of a different color. By celebrating it, we’re encouraging equality.”
Darien resident Joanna Walsh said she came to the walk to teach her children “that, even though not everyone looks like us, they’re still the same as us. I always say that the world would be very boring if we were all the same.”
Keeping the conversation going
Jacobs gave a shout out to the youth of Darien for holding so many inclusivity events over the past few weeks.
“I really feel that what they’ve done around town, the spark they lit, we are so inspired by them,” she told The Darien Times. “We want to show the kids in our town that we’re also engaged in this conversation and that we hear the call as well.”
Jacobs continued, “We said we’ll do something that keeps the conversation going.”
Additionally, she said she is grateful to everyone who had a role in planning the event.
“We were happy to make time and it’s been an incredible team effort by so many amazing mothers who are giving up their evenings, their little bit of kid free time, to do Zoom calls,” she said. “They have been heroes, making this come alive.”
She added she hopes for a more inclusive world that will “speak to all and engage in ways to build our community stronger together.”
Urban, a mother of three, said families can continue the conversation on inclusivity at home with their children. More information, ideas, and resources on teaching children about inclusivity can be found on the Instagram account: @childrensartwalk.
Making kids aware
Darien resident Kate Dempsey, who helped organize several of the recent Black Lives Matter marches in town, said the event is an “amazing way” to sustain the momentum in the movement.
Kate said she’s proud of the organizers, since they’ll “inspire the next generation to celebrate diversity and be more inclusive to one another.”
New Haven resident Laura Koehler said she and her family have been participating in a lot of inclusivity events close to home, and especially at Elm City Montessori School.
“We have been talking a lot about these issues, and our kids are very, very aware,” Koehler said. “The more we can be out there and allow them to really feel like they’re participating and making a difference, we like to do that as much as we can.
Five-year-old Eden Brown of Darien said she came to the art walk because she wants to “celebrate our differences.”
Eden’s mother Emily said all children should experience inclusivity events such as this one. “We’re in a town where there’s not much diversity, so to expose them to this as much as we can, I think it’s so important,” she said.
Darien artist Nobu Miki said she’s very happy to come to the art walk.
“I’m so lucky to witness the mothers who have young children and babies but could manage to organize this, for this new movement,” Miki said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Miki is organizing a support group for minority women in town.
Miki also brought her own piece of art to the event, a painting she named “Imagine,” which she said is inspired by John Lennon and in honor of George Floyd.
Miki said the message of the painting, which shows people of all races in a row boat together, holding hands, is for Darien’s future.
“I put 2020 there because this is a new era in this area and the D stands for Darien,” she said.
“Rock star powers”
After the walk, Jacobs spoke about the importance of treating everyone equally.
“If you see someone not being nice to another person because of how they look, or the color of their skin, or how they dress, or who they like, use your superhero rock star powers to tell them that’s not OK,” Jacobs said. “You’re all so powerful and so strong. Use your strength to love and to be kind to all people. We love the way your art has celebrated our differences and you make our world so special.”
Jacobs continued, “Raise your art high and be proud and show it off to everyone. Show everyone that Darien is an inclusive place.
Jacobs paid tribute to the life of former U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an American politician and Civil Rights leader, who died Friday.
“We honored his legacy today, and there’s something poetic in the symmetry of this moment,” she said. “One of the world’s greatest activists passed, but hopefully today, a few were born.”