Sandra Miller, the mother of three children attending 49th Street Elementary School, first became alarmed about drugs when she heard that students were sniffing "white out"--the stuff secretaries use to correct typing mistakes--to get high.
'My kids told me that they had heard of people sniffing it in place of glue," Miller said. "It just shows that kids are being exposed to all kinds of different things."
Miller thought it was time to become personally involved in steering young people away from the temptations of drug abuse. On Friday, she joined an estimated 400 schoolchildren in a march on City Hall to encourage them to "Just Say No" to drugs.
The march, organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, attracted representatives of Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilman Robert C. Farrell, officials from the Los Angeles and Compton school districts and several community activists.
It's OK to Say No
The theme for Friday's march from the Los Angeles Unified School District's main office to the City Hall steps was to assure the children, most of whom were of elementary school age, that it is OK for them to say no to drug use.
Enthusiastically, the children embraced the theme.
"To those persons who drink or do bad things with drugs, I want to tell them that if you want to study and do something good with your life, that drugs can do bad things to you," said Juan Castillo, a sixth-grade student at Flournoy School in Southeast Los Angeles.
Similar demonstrations took place Friday in Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Washington and Houston as part of an effort "to eliminate drugs from our community," said Melanie Lomax, NAACP first vice president in Los Angeles.
George McKenna, principal at Washington Preparatory High in South-Central Los Angeles, was the best received of the speakers here.
"We understand that sometimes people in your homes use drugs, or your best friend," McKenna told the schoolchildren. "Tell them 'no' if they ask you to use it. Tell your mother 'no.' Drugs poison your mind, destroy your soul, ruin your future.
"If you do not stay away from drugs," McKenna added, "there will be no year 2010 for you, so you better go see the movie now. Your world will be destroyed around you. It will be a Purple Rain."
To the group of Washington High students in the audience, McKenna said: "You've got a generation around you to save. If we don't save these kids, they will become our predators and we will be their prey."
Bystanders Join In
The march, which stretched south on Grand Avenue from the school district headquarters to 1st Street and then east to City Hall, drew dozens of bystanders who clapped and shouted "Just Say No" along with the students.
One happy--and startled--observer was a man slouched on a 1st Street bus bench. Although he wasn't even panhandling, he was showered with about $5 worth of bills and change from the marchers, who went on to sing "We Are the World" on the City Hall steps.