Answering the rallying cry behind the hashtag #KidLitMarchesforKids —initiated by authors Jenny Han and Raina Telgemeier—the children’s book community turned out in force in cities across the country on Saturday, March 24 to participate in the national March for Our Lives advocating gun control and an end to gun violence. The national march in Washington, D.C. was organized by a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who survived the February 14 mass shooting on their campus that took the lives of 17 people. Leading up to the event, the movement had received a groundswell of support—including from major advocacy groups and from politicians and celebrities—and grew to include marches in all 50 states as well as in many countries around the globe.
“The NYC march went great!” said Han. In her estimation, roughly 75 people, consisting of authors, agents, editors, publicists, and librarians, marched with the group. The New York Chapter of Dumbledore’s Army (part of the Harry Potter Alliance activist group) contacted Han via Facebook and asked to join forces as well. “From the start, Raina and I have felt that all we wanted was to support the kids on the front line,” said Han. “I’m so glad we had so many partners in that effort.”
Author Siobhan Vivian organized a Kid Lit Marches For Kids group in Pittsburgh. “I was thrilled by the turnout,” she said. “It was a large and very diverse crowd.” The city of Pittsburgh estimated that 30,000 people took part, a showing that far exceeded expectations. “It felt great to have the opportunity to show up to support many of the kids and families who support us,” Vivian said. “And to see these kids use their voices and be so fearless and so passionate—I found it incredibly moving and inspiring.”
Offering a report from the West Coast, Telgemeier said, “The San Francisco Bay Area turned out strong for our march, with about 30 members joining us in raising our voices to support the students leading the way. We’re all amped to do more, and we hope to introduce next-step initiatives in the near future.”
The Salt Lake City march drew a crowd of 8000, reported to be the largest political protest ever in the city, according to Shannon Hale, who led her local group with fellow author Ally Condie. “Men in black t-shirts open-carrying rifles and handguns walked through the crowd, glaring and seemed to be trying to intimidate us,” Hale said, “but the crowd was strong and enthused.” Various high school students from the area spoke to “great cheers,” she added. “It was a very hopeful gathering.”
Hale also related one encounter that stood out for her on Saturday: “I met a woman who was with her father. He used a wheelchair and was a survivor of the Trolley Square mass shooting in 2007. She said, ‘We had to be here. It wasn’t even a choice.’ That’s how I felt too. How could I, as a writer for children and teens, not support the teens speaking out and the children who have every right not to live in fear?”
Han echoed the sentiments of her fellow marchers when she offered some reflective words about the next steps on this activist journey. “At the end of the day,” she said, “I rolled up my Kid Lit Marches For Kids banner and took it home, because I know that this is only the beginning. We’re going to have to keep marching, and we will.”
What follows are a few photos of kid lit crews on the move. An impressive array of additional images appears under the hashtag that kickstarted this effort: #KidLitMarchesForKids.
The New York group getting ready to roll from its meet-up spot.
(From left:) Author Nick Courage, publicist Katie Kurtzman, and agent Rachel Ekstrom Courage.
Kid lit folks gathered for the march at West High School, which is Hale’s alma mater. (From l.): Authors Ally Condie, Hale, Courtney Alameda, and J.R. Johansson.
Pre-march meet-up at the Opera Plaza location of Books Inc. in San Francisco.