'Because They Care': Downtown Families in Step With Climate March

Sixth grader Lucinda Depew and her mother Lila Kerns march across Chambers Street. At right, holding a sign, is another Lower Manhattan Community Middle School parent, Christine Dimmick. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Sep. 24, 2019

For about a dozen students at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, last Friday’s world-wide, youth-led climate-change demonstrations began quietly the day before, in science room 623. 

It was protest poster making time, organized by a few school parents. While Nile Stewart, with Dylan Ho, was making a sign that said “If You Do Not Act Like An Adult We Will,” his father Aaron, a graphic artist, was drawing an earth on fire, screaming, “Help I’m On Fire.

“Nile’s learned about all this stuff in science and he comes home and he’s always outraged by what he hears,” Stewart said. “I see his enthusiasm.”

Sixth grade science teacher Helen Dole was working on a sign of her own. “We haven’t been publicizing it aside from the emails that the parents sent out,” she said. “I can’t leave class so I’m excited for them.”

“I wish there were more kids here now,” added Dole, who with fellow science teacher Molly Goodell, spent 10 days in Alaska last summer studying climate change. ”But the kids who are here are here because they heard about it and they care about it.”

The next morning, The Trib followed three students and their parents, beginning with their 11 a.m. exit from the lower Broadway school, signs in hand. A few others from the school were at the already packed Foley Square, where the march to The Battery was to begin.

“I know its not going to fix climate change but I know that it will make other people aware,” said 7th grader Rome Dimmick, as he walked up New Street with his sign “It’s Time to Chill,” illustrated with a melting ice cube. “Some of my classmates are like, what’s the point of this climate change thing, it’s not going to change anything. Nothing changes in one step, it takes multiple steps and you just need to keep doing them and your hardest.”

Nile said he joined the march “because people need to make a difference in the world, right? And we have to start now to make a change.”

Plus, he added, “It’s really fun.”

“Let’s plop ourselves down here,” Lila Kerns, the mother of 6th grader Lucinda Depew, said after arriving at the Federal Building plaza, facing the masses across the street in Foley Square. Now and then, cheers erupted from that crowd and the vague sound of an amplified voice could be heard from an unseen stage. Here, at least, there was elbow room for sign waving.

“Part of me didn’t want to show up today because huge crowds make me anxious,” Kerns said, her sign reading “Dont Be a Fossil Fool.” “But as an American it’s our right and our responsibility and our privilege to be able to speak our truths. And one of the greatest truths of all is that we have to have a livable planet. And it starts at home.”

Meanwhile, another LMC parent organizer, Paul Feldsher, with his son and daughter and three other kids, were near the stage at the beginning of the march. That was “unfortunate,” he said later, because “we were stuck there for nearly two hours. Police had a punitive labyrinth of barricades circling Foley Square.There were only a couple of exits.” 

“You wouldn’t have wanted to be where we were,” he added.

The LMC families outside the Federal Building were on the move, up Elk Street to Chambers, and squeezing into the massive flow of demonstrators moving towards Broadway.

“Ok, jump in,” Christine Dimmick called out.

“This is even better than I hoped,” Lila Kerns said. “We’re moving slowly because everyone wants to be taking it in, and there’s just so many of us.” 

It would be about another hour before these marchers made their way to Battery Park. Along the route, all three kids faded and went home, leaving only the two mothers. But swaying to the beat of “Hey, Hey, ho, ho, climate change has got to go,” they were unflagging. At some point on lower Broadway, the chants gave way to some teens behind them singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Kerns held up her bare right arm.

“Look,” she said. “I’m getting goosebumps.”

By the time they reached Battery Park, where speeches were to begin at 5 p.m., Kerns was “knackered” and ready to go home to the Seaport, and her daughter Lucinda. Dimmick, who lives a couple of blocks from the park, was going to get some water at her apartment a few blocks away, and then return.

“It was great to march down with the kids, and I’m so proud of them,” she said.

“The sad part I’m left with,” she added, “is that they have to do this. The adults should be taking care of it.”