Areli Galvez began her speech by asking the crowd to imagine George Floyd’s final moments—without ever mentioning his name.
“Nothing is working,” she said, reading from her phone. “So you do what you do best when everything goes wrong: You call for your mom. You begin to yell, ‘Momma, Momma please!’ Yet you’re still stuck in the same position.”
The powerful four-minute talk by the 16-year-old La Quinta High School student was one of the key moments of the “Enough Is Enough” Black Lives Matter rally and protest, at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, June 6. Around 1,000 face-mask-wearing people attended the morning rally, which was organized by Galvez and several other young women—including Hina Malik, Jazlina Morgan and Sadie Reese—who took on the name Young Justice Advocates.
During a subsequent phone interview, Galvez explained how her group and the rally came to be.
“We came together with one of our friends, and she decided that we should start a protest,” Galvez said. “We were actually going to do it the first Saturday (after) George Floyd died, but we thought it was too soon. Then we started planning more.”
The group was originally going to have the event in front of the Starbucks Reserve on Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way, but they decided to move it when they realized how large the crowd could get. The group worked with the city and let the police know about their plans—collaborations which earned the Young Justice Advocates some criticism on social media. However, Galvez said the group never intended for the rally to be disdainful of all law enforcement, in any case.
“We spoke to (Palm Springs police) to ask for a couple of them to be there for our own safety—because we are minors,” she said. “We’re all underage. (Our goal was) being together and having unity. … To have them there just showed unity.”
The group made sure to get plenty of water, sunscreen and masks for people who showed up ill-prepared to march on the warm June day—as well as a proper sound system and a DJ to help with the atmosphere and the speeches.
“Since there were so many other protests before ours, we looked at the guidelines of what to have and what to prepare for,” she said. “We asked for donations. We said, ‘Hey, everyone, if you can, please donate water, snacks and sunscreen.’ … When we started, we weren’t expecting so many people to donate. Of course, we received so much water and so much sunscreen.”
After leading several chants, the young women led the crowd in a march around the park, with most participants holding signs and repeating those chants.
“No justice, no peace!”
“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
“Black lives matter!”
“I can’t breathe!”
Later during the two-hour event came the speeches by Galvez, her fellow Young Justice Advocates and others. However, Galvez said her favorite moment of the day came when the DJ started playing music.
“Everyone got together and started dancing. It was just such a beautiful moment that really made me think, yes, we’re going to make a change,” she said. “This is all for a reason. It was just so amazing to see everyone dancing and singing and being together, united. We’re all equal—and we were all equal and united at that moment.”
However, Galvez said she isn’t always treated as an equal.
“I have a lot of experience with racism when it comes to my school environment,” she said. “If I were to get into an altercation, I would get more of a harsh punishment than someone else, because of the way I look. It’s happened multiple times.”
Galvez mentioned one incident in particular: During a basketball game, while Galvez went for a jump ball, the opposing player—a white girl—punched her in the face. While she did not retaliate, Galvez said, she was nonetheless punished.
“It was on a recording, so there was proof that I didn’t hit her, that I didn’t start it,” she said. “But right after she punched me, I got tackled by one of our staff members at the school and put into a separate room—as if I was some animal or something. Then they told me that I wasn’t allowed to go back out into the game, and I was suspended from school for three days, and couldn’t play in about five to six basketball games. I had to have my mom fight for me, because so many people were there and saw that I didn’t start the issue, and I didn’t hit her back, yet I was treated as if I was an aggressor, or as if I did something wrong.”
It’s experiences like that, Galvez said, that made her and her friends want to organize—and they don’t plan on stopping their work anytime soon. Galvez said they’re trying to organize a caravan protest so people at a higher risk of COVID-19 can make their voices heard, but first, the slightly renamed Young Justice Advocates will be holding a Juneteenth barbecue, at 5 p.m., Saturday, June 20, at Frances Stevens Park, at Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road, in downtown Palm Springs.
The reason for the slight name change: Due to “undisclosable reasons,” there are now two Young Justice Advocates groups. The other one is also planning a Juneteenth barbecue—at 1 p.m., Friday, June 19, at the Desert Highland Community Center, 480 W. Tramview Road, in Palm Springs.
Galvez said she and her fellow Young Justice Advocates of the Desert need to keep fighting for equality in the Coachella Valley.
“We are all mixed. None of us are actually white or Caucasian,” she said. “We go through the issues of racism and being racially profiled all the time. We got together, and we were like, ‘We’re tired of this; we need to change. We need to come together. We need to show that we are equal and deserve all the same rights as everyone else.’”
For more information on the Young Justice Advocates of the Desert, Galvez’s group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/252683602492267 or www.instagram.com/youngjusticeadvsofthedesert. For more information on the Young Justice Advocates, visit www.instagram.com/youngjusticeadvocates.