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Manhattan Beach Chalk Art Event Kicks Off 'United Against Hate Week'

Nov 15, 2021 08:50AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Photo via MB United

Manhattan Beach families and children gathered at Polliwog Park near Manhattan Beach Middle School on Sunday for a chalk art event to kick off United Against Hate Week. 

A series of panels, designed by Manhattan Beach artist and parent Derek Billings, spelled out "Who Do You L-O-V-E" and "What Gives You P-R-I-D-E." The panels were flanked by a giant heart, and the words "MB United Against Hate."

Manhattan Beach parent and event organizer Diana Skaar told the crowd, "I chose this location in particular because I wanted it to be close to the middle school. I feel at that age middle schoolers are really starting to understand their different identities... I thought it was really important to have this message of love and support and standing up against hate, so middle schoolers can see this message and know that they are loved."

Skaar, who has openly talked about experiencing hate as an Asian American, said, "For me, I know things can be hard when jokes are made at your expense, and even harder when it 's in front of your friends. I know how hard it is to suffer in silence. The hard thing about not standing up to bullying and not standing up to hate is that that silence actually normalizes the behavior."

Skaar added, "What today is about is realizing that we may be at various comfort levels with dialogue, but we can all pick up a piece of chalk and draw a message of love and support and show that Manhattan Beach is united against hate."

Billings designed the panels so participants could personalize their own messages about what they love and what gives them pride.

"This is the first gay pride event, where I think there's, like, no gay people," Billings quipped. "And I love that, because it's all about allies. I support the Asian community...I'm not Asian, but I can support them, I can be an ally. It's really important, for especially the gay and lesbian community and for the trans community, that everyone is supporting them, and just saying, 'I'm here, I'm a friend to you, I'm a safe space, I'm a safe person.'"

Billings continued: "You can spread that around to one person that you know, to two people you know. and that will make a huge difference - and people's minds will be opened a little bit more. Kids will feel safe, kids will feel comfortable, they'll feel accepted, and they'll feel like they have a safe space to grow up, and that's really what it's all about."

Youth speakers at the event included Pennekamp 4th grader Brooklyn Chan; as well as Mira Costa High School seniors Ben Henschel, Caroline Kiely, and Garrett Nose.

Manhattan Beach Mayor Hildy Stern applauded the students for sharing their experiences with discrimination and hatred. "Thank you for your bravery, thank you for teaching us how to be your allies, and thank you for being the models. You give us hope that this is a future that we will continue to move forward...Let's stay united, let's stay kind, let's move forward with love, and let's be allies for each other."

Also in attendance were Councilmember Joe Franklin; former Manhattan Beach Mayor Mitch Ward (also a speaker); MBUSD school board members Cathey Graves and Sally Peel; Mira Costa High School Principal Karina Gerger and Grand View Elementary Principal Tara Grings; Deputy MBUSD Superintendent Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard; and PTA District Advisory President Wysh Weinstein.

The city of Manhattan Beach and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District have both declared November 14-20 to be United Against Hate Week.

Parallel United Against Hate Week chalk events organized by MB United took place simultaneously in Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.

Organizers took the opportunity to remind community members that anyone can confidentially report a hate incident online or call 211.

Video of the speakers at the Manhattan Beach event can be found below.

MB United Against Hate Chalk Event Speakers Part 1

MB United Against Hate Chalk Event Speakers Part 2

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