Roanoke-area parents speak with children about protests happening across the country

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — As tension continues to grow, as well as protests, parents in the Roanoke Valley are having tougher conversations with their children.

That was evident at a recent protest held in downtown Roanoke, where the organization No Justice, No Peace tried to encourage justice for Daunte Wright.

Many protesters were in their teens or earlier 20s. A majority were not minorities, but multiple protesters were protesting with their families.

John-Miller Penn is a 15-year-old student at Patrick Henry who came with his mother and a classmate. He says that his parents have been preparing him for the world through conversations.

“Right when the COVID started happening, we already had, we already was having these talks, and coming out to these protests and letting me know, that I can’t do certain things because of the way that I look.”

Bella Cintron, John-Miller’s classmate, says she also talked with her mom and dad.

“For me, the conversation is a lot different being an ally and helping people in the way that I can and using my privilege to my advantage, with helping people especially my community,” said Cintron.

“What is concerning as a parent of a child of a 15-year-old that’s about six foot one inch tall,” John-Miller’s mother, Angela Penn, said. “Just because of how he looks, he could be determined to be intimidating or threatening.”

Angela says it is frightening.

“As much as you have conversations each time you go out, ‘this is the way you need to act, this is the way you need to behave,’ and it’s sad that you have to have that kind of conversation.”

According to Cintron, she feels similarly about her father, who has darker skin.

“Me being scared for him every time a police officer pulls him over, anything like that, it’s a different kind of feeling.”

Cassie Beverly says that is why she brings her 11-year-old daughter to protests, hoping to instill in her the importance of allies.

“We need to speak out with our white skin, being more privileged and I’ve been trying to make her understand how that works.”

An Asian woman, who did not want to share her name, told WFXR News that stereotypes have changed how she carries herself and how she dresses.

“Maybe 12 or 13, I started to really realize how people saw me as an Asian woman and just the stereotypes and ideas that have been perpetrated in this society.”

According to Beverly, it is important to stop discounting others’ experiences.

“It is a problem and just because it may not affect you doesn’t mean that it’s not happening,” said Beverly, “that you know people need to open their eyes, educate themselves more. Quit dismissing other people’s pain.”

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