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Black Girl Magic Took Over Chicago's Millennium Park

MILLENNIUM PARK — You could hear a pin drop Monday as more than 200 people, mostly teen girls, sat silently in Chicago's Millennium Park — black girl magic had taken over.  

Ahead of a Black Lives Matter protest that shut down the Loop, four black teen girls organized a powerful silent protest against police brutality, and highlighted another movement that started with a hashtag: #blackgirlmagic. 

The phrase is meant to celebrate the power, beauty and strength of young black women. 

Natalie Braye, 17, Sophia Byrd, 17, Eva Lewis, 17, and Maxine Wint, 16, brought together hundreds of Chicago-area teens and adults of all shades, ages and backgrounds for a staged silent protest against the shootings of black men by police.

Four teen girls organized the Chicago Youth Silent Sit-in Monday at Millennium Park. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]

More than 200 sat silently at the Pavilion in Millennium Park on Monday afternoon.

They sat to take a stand against the shootings that killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Phillando Castille in suburban Minneapolis.

Maxine, a Kenwood resident, said the deaths affected all of them.

“We’ve all been, if not personally affected, then affected in some way," she said. "Just seeing this continue to happen, from Trayvon Martin to now, it’s just like nothing has changed. It’s still happening and we really want something to change. It’s just too long overdue that we’re still out here trying to protest for equal rights or trying to show people that black lives matter."

Sophia, who lives in Ravenswood but grew up in Hyde Park, said organizing this event was personal. She lost a good friend to gun violence, and has participated in several peaceful protests since then.

"Ever since then I’ve really had a personal connection to it and it genuinely hurts my heart, and I cry every time I see someone killed for a seemingly reasonless purpose," she said.

Sophia said many teens have been following the widespread protests over police-involved deaths, but don't necessarily feel welcome at protests. She wanted to change that Monday. 

"I think a lot of time teenagers don’t feel that they’re welcome, they don’t feel that they are being encouraged to come on their own," she said.

Friends Maia Robinson and Asia Joy commuted to the protest from Evanston. The teens said they're tired of their generation hiding behind computer and phone screens to complain about the issues.

Asia Joy, left, and friend Maia Robinson participate in the silent protest Monday. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

"It’s much easier to just type something than to go out and do it," 16-year-old Maia said. "Within the black community we just have so much anger right now and we’re very mad and upset. I think going out to events like these can turn our anger into passion, and actually doing something that could have a real effect in our community."

Asia, 17, agreed with her.

"I feel like there’s a lot of stuff going on on Facebook, [but] there aren't a lot of people doing stuff physically. So I thought it would be a good thing to actually not just talk the talk, but walk the walk."

Even though social media can be a great way to gain momentum within a movement, it's still equally important for people to gather in person, Sophia said.

Four teen girls organized the Chicago Youth Silent Sit-in Monday at Millennium Park. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]

"This is just so phenomenally amazing to me, to see how there are all these teenagers supporting a common goal and doing more than just sharing a hashtag," she said. "There’s really something to be said about coming in person and doing something about what you’re trying to stand up for."

The teens said they plan to continue organizing more peaceful protests for their peers. 

"We’re not anti-police, we’re anti-racism, and we just want people to know that we stand here for peacefulness and come together as one," Maxine said.

Four teen girls organized the Chicago Youth Silent Sit-in Monday at Millennium Park. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]

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