The Next 400: Young activists fight for social justice

Rhonae Simmons, 11, and Aiden Monroe, 12
Rhonae Simmons, 11, and Aiden Monroe, 12((Source: WOIO))
Updated: Apr. 2, 2021 at 10:51 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For Aiden Monroe, 12, and Rhonae Simmons, 11, talking about racism is their reality.

Aiden is a budding scholar and 7th grader at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy who has participated in many peaceful protests, calling for racial equality.

Rhonae is an honor roll student at Adlai Stevenson. She is also an inspiring entrepreneur and entertainer that, projects a similar view.

The two say America is divided by racism.

“It’s scary to watch our people die,” said Rhonae.

“The 60′s, 50′s, and now we are in 2021, and we still have to deal with this kind of thing,” said Aiden.

Aiden Monroe, 12
Aiden Monroe, 12((Source: Family))
Aiden Monroe, 12
Aiden Monroe, 12((Source: Family))

Historic events captured in their young lives have been impactful, forcing them to mature well beyond their years.

“It could have been me sitting on the back of the seat, with you on my knees begging to breathe,” according to Rhonae’s rap lyrics.

She represents a group of young Black people who have been motivated to participate in today’s renewed Civil Rights movement.

They see and hear of the inequalities and are inquisitive.

Fearless and armed with intelligence, they march and speak out, challenging a system often designed with failure on the agenda for them.

Rhonae, at 10 years old, got emotional as she, like millions, witnessed a man die on television with a police officer on his neck. She knows the name George Floyd much like generations before her knew Rodney King or Emmitt Till.

" I didn’t cry, but I was sad about it because he suffered, and he cried for his mom. A grown man cried for his mom,” said Rhonae.

Akil Marshal is an educator and author of several children’s books that promote the positivity of African American experience.

From the days of the great March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King in the 60′s, protest rarely showcased young people.

Perhaps the subject matter was too complex and definitely dangerous.

Fast forward to 2021, and change has come.

Young people and children of all nationalities participated in rallies all around the world.

Akil Marshall, who wrote “Winning in America,” says he’s seen so many emerging young activists blossoming like Rhonae and Aiden, especially under the era of Barack Obama in the White House.

“That’s what they know. So possibilities are endless. They saw a family, and they saw realness at the highest level in the world,” said Marshall.

This younger generation has heard the names: Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Jordan Edwards, and Trayvon Martin; Black people who passed under shadows of hate and bigotry.

“People should be treated equally,” said Aiden. “Just to see people on the news being attacked and harmed because of what their race being called viruses; just something that they had zero control over is disgusting. It should never be an issue in 2021, and we hope there will be a change one day.”

Perhaps with young people like Aiden and Rhonae the future is nearer than we think to that day.

You can see previous stories here of The Next 400.

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