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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

In ‘Kids Lives Matter’ March, Woodlawn Youth Speak Out Against Gun Violence

Children "tired of seeing all these kids dying out here" marched down 63rd Street Friday chanting "kids lives matter" and performing dance routines.

Jazariya Blair (left) and Nerayah Maxon, both 9, dance with the Du Damage team at the Kids Lives Matter March.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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WOODLAWN — Dozens of youth and their families, marshaled by Dreadheadcowboy and two others on horseback, marched down 63rd Street Friday evening calling for an end to the gun violence that has afflicted Chicago’s youth all summer.

The families danced, chanted and marveled at horses riding along city streets during the “Kids Lives Matter” march from King Drive to Woodlawn Avenue.

Dreadheadcowboy, whose real name is Adam Hollingsworth, grew up near the march route at 62nd Street and Kimbark Avenue. He said young children’s voices have rarely been centered during widespread protests in support of Black lives.

Young dancers with two squads — Du Damage Dance Team and Bringing Out Talent Dance Company — and their families made up a large portion of the march itself. Hollingsworth said he appreciated the squads’ roles in reducing gun violence.

“When you get kids occupied and they’ve got things to do with their time and their life … all this senseless killing that’s going on, it’ll slow down a whole lot,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s important to support dance groups [or] anything that’s got something to do with kids. If it’s something positive, support it.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Dreadheadcowboy, real name Adam Hollingsworth, leads a “kids lives matter” chant during the march.
Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Adam Hollingsworth takes his hat back while his son Aking (in blue) looks on.

Other kids came out of daycare centers, the Bessie Coleman Library and storefronts to watch as marchers chanted “kids lives matter” and performed footwork and majorette routines.

The march gave the kids in attendance a platform for their skills, said nine-year-old Du Damage founder Nerayah Maxon.

“I just wanted to bring out a lot of talent to other people, so they could see what we’re working with,” Maxon said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Jessica Black and Egypt Hilderbrand, both 13, dance with the Bringing Out Talent Dance Company under the Green Line ‘L’ tracks.

By dancing in public, marchers made people nearby residents see them “as who we are, seeing that there’s no violence around us,” 12-year-old Garrick Hildebrand said.

Hilderbrand, who dances footwork for Bringing Out Talent, said he is “tired of seeing all these kids dying out here.” Both adults and his fellow youth need to know “we matter.”

Chicago’s shooting totals in the first half of 2020 rose 39 percent over 2019, and numerous children have been among the victims.

Just a couple hours after the march ended, a 9-year-old was fatally shot on the Near North Side.

During a 10-day stretch in late June, four toddlers were shot in the city, including 3-year-old Mekhi James and 1-year-old Sincere Gaston who were killed.

“No more violence, no more hurt or anything,” Hilderbrand said. “To other kids: You are the future, don’t let anything bother you. You got this.”

With the Bud Billiken Parade canceled this summer for the first time in 91 years, the Kids Lives Matter march was an engaging — if much smaller — replacement, said Sylvia McGee.

Much like the Bud does every year, McGee, a fifth-generation dance instructor, hopes the march will remind the children who viewed it of the value in “doing positive things and hanging in positive places,” she said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Sylvia McGee does the splits on 63rd Street at Friday’s march.

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