Topanga Elementary Charter School’s 2020 Kindergarten class held their own Black Lives Matter rally in front of the school on June 13. It was a culmination of a year that focused on the importance of kindness and compassion.

“It was a powerful experience for the students and parents to see the overwhelming public support—with cars honking noisily and cheering as they passed by,” parent Kim Kluge told the Topanga New Times.

Kim, his wife Kathryn and their daughter Lily helped organize and took part in the event. 

Topanga Elementary Principal Kevin Kassebaum with Lily and Kathryn Kluge. Photo by Kim Kluge

“Kathryn and I wanted to give the students a meaningful formative experience during this historic time,” Kim told TNT. “We are deeply committed to do all that we can to help maintain the momentum of this movement, and will continue to organize local rallies— including school wide rallies.”

Kindergarten students and their family members gather on Topanga Canyon Blvd. to rally for Black Lives Matter and share their message of love and unity. Photo by Kim Kluge

The children made their own signs with a little help from parents and siblings. The messages for the peaceful display stated “Kindergartners for Change”  and “Kindergartners for Black Lives Matter.”

Topanga Elementary School teacher Linda Korts’ Kindergarten Class held a BLM Rally on Topanga Canyon Blvd. opposite the entrance to the  school on Saturday, June 13. Shown are Rashmi, Sam, Taejus and Maya Peterson. Photo by Kim Kluge

The Kluges’ daughter, Lily, threw herself whole-heartedly into the rally, making her own sign, and eager to share that message with the community.

Kindergartner Lily Kluge works on her sign. All of the students participated in making signs to display at the rally. Photo by Kim Kluge

“Kathryn and I have been very inspired by Mrs. Linda Kort’s emphasis on teaching her kindergarten students kindness towards all,” Kim said.   “When we volunteered to help with the annual TECS Holiday Concert, Mrs. Kort mentioned that it would be nice to do something different this year.   Kathryn and I discussed it at the dinner table and Lily exclaimed, “The students should write their own song!”  So… the students contributed the lyrics and we wrote a simple melody. 

Lily Kluge shares her message of love and solidarity. Photo by Kim Kluge

Kim and Kathryn Kluge are professional musicians. Kim is a composer and conductor, Kathryn is a concert pianist. They worked with the class to write and record an original song. 

“’The Gift of Kindness” is a quintessentially Topanga homegrown song, co-written and performed by Topanga’s Kindergarten students.

The rally, which incorporated all of the elements of the song created by the children and the lessons they learned throughout the school year, took place shortly after the kindergarten class commencement on Zoom.

 “It was a way to apply their lessons of kindness to their world experience  and in the Topanga tradition of peace and love,” Kim Kluge said. “We wanted them to be a part of this historic moment, and in the words of Ghandi,  to “be the change (they) wish to see in the world.” 

The Kluges are currently  producing a feature documentary about social justice told through the diary-cams of students from minority neighborhoods. 

“The students will also be composing the film’s musical score,” Kim said. “And we’re co-producing, with a producer of viral videos and members of nationally acclaimed black dance companies and black choirs, a music video of a song we wrote, “Together, a Song of Hope” to confront the global pandemic of racism. Yet, there is so much more we need to do.”

Here is a recording of their performance, including the two TECS Kindergarten classes as well as TK.

THE KINDEST GIFT

Lyrics inspired by Topanga Elementary TK & Kindergarten Students. Music by Kathryn & Kim Kluge

I’m looking for the perfect gift 

so I can show I care. 

Holidays are growing close 

but my pocket’s bare. 

I can give a gift of kindness—

it is in my heart. 

I can give a gift of kindness—

I can do my part. 

When someone’s hurt 

or someone falls, 

I can help them stand. 

Without a friend 

or all alone, 

I can hold their hand. 

If someone’s sad, 

give them a hug—

let them know I’m there. 

Without a toy, 

without a home, 

I can always share.

I can give peace and love 

and friendship always, 

and peace and love 

and friendship always, 

peace and love 

and friendship always, 

and peace and love 

and friendship always, 

peace and love 

and joy to the world. 

You can give a gift of kindness —

it is in your heart. 

You can give a gift of kindness —

it’s not too late to start.