Lansdowne’s unity march shows community the face of ‘one’
The more than 600 students of Lansdowne Elementary have come together with purpose: to lead a unity march that shows Lexington what is truly important. “The march is definitely a celebration of all of us and really the diversity of our community,” said PGES coach Matthew Spottswood, noting that 25 languages are spoken in Lansdowne students’ homes. “The message is ‘We are one.’ We’re one group of learners. We look a lot different, we’re a lot of different colors, we’re a lot of different shades, we speak a lot of different languages. But this is what it’s all about – just a beautiful mix of cultures, languages, religions, thoughts, ideas, art. The community needs to see it coming from the children. Sometimes it takes the innocence of a kid to remind us that we’re one.”
Spottswood heads Lansdowne’s Culture & Resources Committee, which includes teachers from every grade level and department. As Black History Month approached, they brainstormed ideas such as highlighting trailblazers in their respective fields and freshening the hallway posters. They also decided that students and staff could walk to Kirklevington Park and back (about a mile total). The logistics took a bit of planning, as the youngsters will file out of the building by classes and proceed two-by-two down the sidewalk, but Spottswood said the great experience would be worth the effort.
When asked for support, art teacher Katie Rafferty Knapik went all in for the schoolwide event. What is a march, after all, without signs? “We’ve been commissioned, so we have to press pause on our regular project,” she told her students, referring to preparations for their multicultural art show. For a week preceding the mini field trip, Knapik talked about the meaning of unity and the purpose of a march. She also showed a few famous photos such as the 1963 March on Washington, shared universal images like a heart and the rainbow, and encouraged students to copy or create a slogan and design a picture illustrating a positive message. “How can we make these designs beautiful, interesting, and colorful so people can really understand why we’re marching? It doesn’t need to be the most detailed observational drawing, but we still want it to be as good as it can be,” Knapik said. “It’s done in support of one another to help show the community how special everyone is in our school. It’s honing in on love and support.”
Using the basic tools of pencils, crayons, and 9x12 cardstock, eager students set to work making signs to carry to the park. “I’m drawing peace signs all over my paper because it shows love and unity. Unity means joining together in a big group like in the march, and love is from the heart,” first grader Harper Golebiewski said as she traced a circular plastic cap. At a nearby table, 7-year-old Brycen Dziba drew a mountain with the words “Be kind.” “Sometimes people aren’t nice so you have to be kind to people so they’re kind to you,” he said. In another session, fifth graders made detailed signs featuring phrases like “Unity = Strength.” “I’m writing ‘I love you’ in Japanese with a heart around it,” 11-year-old Sadiq El-Amin said as he and classmate Aaliyah Deveaux hurried to finish coloring in the allotted time. “I want to spread equality because this world’s not fair at all,” Aaliyah said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, we’re all in this world together.”
The students’ efforts impressed their teacher, who valued the one-day blitz. “I’m hopeful they will take away how powerful art can be to send a message out into the world about our ideas and our beliefs,” Knapik said. “They can use that theme of unity and love to communicate throughout the community.”