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What Black Lives Matter means to an 11-year-old

“When did I stop being cute and start being scary?”

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and hundreds of other Black Americans at the hands of police officers have inspired protests across the country and around the world.

The news coverage has been impossible for most of us to ignore, and it raises the question: How are kids, especially Black kids, processing this reality? How do they make sense of these deaths and the systemic factors that made them possible?

In June 2020, 11-year-old Californian Jolia Bossette decided to use her fifth-grade graduation speech as an occasion to give voice to her thoughts and feelings. In her speech, she reminisced about how she was “the cutest thing,” as a toddler, and asked, “But when did I stop being cute and start being scary?”

“Does my dad scare you? Does my mom scare you? Does my auntie scare you? Because let me tell you something: We are not scary.”

Watch a selection of Jolia’s speech, with animation from Eido, in the video above.

This piece is part of Vox’s first-ever week of video programming designed for kids ages 9 to 13. We hope everyone in our audience enjoys them.

If you’re a parent, an educator, or a kid at heart, please sign up for our newsletter for updates on all of our upcoming kids’ programming at Vox, from podcasts to videos to new shows.

To listen to Jolia’s interview on Vox’s daily podcast Today, Explained, click the player below.

Further reading

For a comprehensive list of people shot and killed by police in the United States since 2015, please visit the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database.

To learn more about how the Black Lives Matter movement fits into the tradition of American political and cultural movements, check out this interview with historian Michael Kazin.

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