Paper hearts send messages of love and solidarity

The construction paper hearts on the barricades outside First Street restaurants flutter in the breeze.

They carry messages of activism - "No justice, no peace" - and list the names of black individuals who have died at the hands of white police officers, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Others offer affirmations, such as "Compassion has no color," and "We are here. You are heard."

"Personally I like the simple ones that said, 'Black lives matter' (and) the hearts that really embodied what we were trying to do was spread love, not hate," said Alyssa Lim, one of three teens who organized the initiative.

She, Emily Chan and Chloe Aquino had seen a news item about a group of girls who had posted paper hearts in Naperville following the recent protests. They decided to do the same here.

"We wanted to change mindsets and we thought hanging up hearts was a way to show allyship and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement," said Lim, a rising senior at Hinsdale Central High School.

Chan said she desperately wanted to attend the protests, but her mother's concerns about potential outbreaks of violence and the spread of COVID-19 prevented her from doing so. She understood her mom's worries but couldn't just sit at home doing nothing.

"It was difficult for me because I feel so strongly and I have a feeling I'm maybe not doing enough. I was constantly having that feeling in my mind," she said.

One of the factors motivating the teens was the racism they've experienced in their own lives, Lim said.

Chan, who lives in Hinsdale and is a rising senior at the Chicago Lab School, said she and her Asian American friends have been the victims of microaggression and racist comments at various times since childhood.

"Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, it's sometimes difficult to find or keep hold of your racial identity," she said.

Their experiences have created greater empathy and understanding, Chan said.

"There is more than one group that is oppressed," she said. "We want to do everything we can to support them, even if we haven't been oppressed to the same degree or in the same way."

The teens also saw an opportunity to bring the community together, and so they invited others to meet briefly in Burlington Park before dispersing to post the hearts.

"It was really awesome to see all of the hearts hung up," Lim said, adding that she was pleased to see other kids continue the effort. "It's encouraged them even now to hang up hearts. We all feel it has opened up doors for other people to become involved and stay active in the movement."

Moving forward, the teens' message to others is simple and straightforward.

"Just get involved and stay active," Lim said.

"I think people should continue to feel strongly about this cause and motivated and encouraged to keep doing whatever they can to spark social change. It's not something that's a weeklong trend," Chan added.

I'm constantly reassured about the future of our nation and our world when I talk to teens in town. This particular initiative reminds me of a well-known quote from Mother Teresa.

"Not all of us can do great things," she said. "But we can do small things with great love."

- Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean.

Readers can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean