Area children made their voices heard Sunday evening as they led a march against racial injustice through downtown Aiken. 

Area 9-year-old Hayden Leach told his mother, Cayla Leach, that he wanted to march with his friends after learning of the death of George Floyd. 

Cayla quickly reached out to the newly formed Black Lives Matter Aiken Movement to organize a child-led march. 

The group would officially announce the plans for the march at Saturday's peaceful demonstration at the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center that drew hundreds of attendees. 

Just before 6 p.m., families with signs crowded the downtown fountain on Newberry Street. 

Through conversations and speeches, parents shared their thoughts on the importance of children being involved in conversations regarding racial injustice.  

"It’s so important to talk to your kids about it," Leach said. "They are not too young to understand. Look at it through their eyes because they do see color and they do see everyone is different and they do appreciate it. Children understand way more than we give them credit for. They need to know. It’s important to have hard conversations."

Marcelle James was just one of several parents who brought their children to participate in the march. 

Her daughter, 7-year-old Ella Paige, carried a homemade sign decorated in various colors that read, "Let's stand together." 

As an African American woman, Marcelle said conversations about racial injustice are not just important but necessary.     

"For us in our community, we don’t have a choice. We don’t have a choice to wait but this allows us to have it in a way that she could really understand it with everyone around," James said.

At 6 p.m., children led the march of at least 100 people from the fountain on Newberry Street, through The Alley and up Laurens Street.  

They carried signs that read "Racism is bad" and "I will not learn hate."

Children chanted "We need you" as parents responded from behind "We got you." 

Together, both parents and children also chanted "United we stand. Divided we fall."

The march concluded back at the fountain as speakers encouraged parents to have the tough conversations with their children and that children are the future. 

"Everything you hear today is out of the mouths of babes," Council woman Gail Diggs, who was accompanied by Mayor Rick Osbon, said. "They're our future. We've got to listen to them." 

As the speeches concluded children ran back to their parents, some hugging and some simply taking photos. 

Through the marches and tough conversations, Cayla said it brings a hope that the next generation is being raised differently.

For 10-year-old Braelin Elmore, Sunday's march is something she will carry with her forever. 

"It was very special to me because I’ve always dreamed of being the president and want to make a great speech about what I have learned today,” Elmore said. “When I grow up, I want to make a difference in the world.”

Matthew Enfinger is the crime and courts reporter with the Aiken Standard. Subscribe here to support his content.