For Palo Alto students, teachers and youth leaders who participated in the march against racial profiling on Nov. 9, the event represented a positive beginning of a community effort to combat racism.
Some students and teachers at Palo Alto High School are engaged in dialogue about racial topics with the hope of dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions. "Living skills" teacher Letitia Burton said she is open to talking about racial issues with her students.
Burton participated in the march. She marched for her students, who tell her stories about the police pulling them over for no reason, she said.
She marched as a teacher who feels it is her role to voice injustice and to teach her students to do the same, and as a black woman, who experienced racial profiling at Stanford Shopping Center -- where a clerk followed and watched her suspiciously instead of assisting her.
Burton plans to discuss racial profiling and other social-justice issues with her class.\
"I think that for the average white Palo Alto student, the racial-profiling issue is not on their radar. They hear about it but don't experience it," she said.
She also hopes to have a police officer visit her class to discuss the topic.
"It would be great if the police did more for community outreach," Burton said. "There should be dialog between groups of youth and the police. I think youth need to understand what it means to be a police officer. ... I think the police need to hear what youth need to say and what it feels like to be questioned when they're not doing anything wrong."
Paly senior Kevin Ward also participated in the march. He was well aware that the march was in response to Police Chief Lynne Johnson's controversial instruction that officers question people of color if they match other descriptions of robbers involved in recent crimes.
"I found it ironic that many people who live in Palo Alto don't know what their own police chief is saying," Kevin said. "I wish people who think that minorities just keep complaining would actually come out and listen. It's not just minorities making statements."
Kevin said the march was really eye-opening.
"It was great to see the community," he said. "We started out in East Palo Alto and saw more people come out when we marched through Palo Alto."
Five days after the march, Kevin and some of his classmates in Youth Community Services, a nonprofit organization working to bridge the gap between East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, put on a multicultural fair in celebration of diversity at Mitchell Park Main Hall.
The fair focused on Cesar Chavez's principle of honoring all people.
Kevin saw the event as a way to create consciousness within the community.
"One way to combat the racial-profiling issue is awareness and getting people to know their neighbors before they make judgments," he said.
While some students are very aware of the racial topic, Gunn High School senior Nidia Morales said many students don't discuss it.
"Most people aren't talking about it. Usually minorities are talking about it. I only hear them talking about it when they think they are being pulled over because of their race.
"They feel that they are asked a lot of questions because they are minorities, not because they are actually doing something wrong."