Kiera Kaiser is dealing with all the stress that comes with planning a big political rally.
So far, she has filed paperwork at Fresno City Hall, created a website and perfected a mission statement: “We fight for equality for all people … We believe that science and facts matter.”
Kiera also has distributed informational fliers and volunteer forms, and she is urging people to contact their local representatives about any inequities they experience or witness.
But this event is different from the marches and protests the country has seen since the election of President Donald Trump. This Fresno rally’s target audience is children – and Kiera just turned 11.
Never miss a local story.
“This is so kids have a platform to speak their minds about equality and show that equality matters,” says Kiera, sitting with her hands politely clasped at a picnic table outside Manchester GATE Elementary, where she attends.
“I’m trying to keep this away from politics. This is about how, even through our many beautiful differences, we remain equal.”
There are people who are experiencing hate and inequality every day.
Fresno Unified student Kiera Kaiser
“I was really inspired with what they were doing,” Kiera said. “I loved how this big group of people was getting together and fighting for what they believed in.”
Her mother, Nasreen Riahizadeh, says that while some people may be surprised by Kiera’s passion and maturity, this is typical.
“She’s always had a huge heart and has always had a sense of what’s right and just. She will make sure everyone has two cookies, and she’ll take none, just to make sure it’s fair,” Riahizadeh said.
“She’s always watching out for other people. Like all of us, she’s been paying more attention since the election, and is looking for ways in our community to give back.”
The rally is asking children (their parents can come, too) to meet outside Fresno City Hall to “prove that when you try to divide people, you’re really bringing them closer together.” Kiera is calling on Fresno kids to give a speech, recite a poem or sing a song to show their support for equality.
Kiera knows people may doubt her abilities because of her young age, but the little girl with braces has the experience to pull this off.
She attends weekly meetings of Fresno Resistance – a group that aims to “challenge systems of oppression.” She studies the work of the late feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde – far beyond the fifth-grade reading level. She stays up-to-date on political issues, with a particular interest in immigration policy, and recently helped push Fresno Unified school board members to pass a safe haven resolution for undocumented students.
I want her spark to stay alive.
Kiera’s mother, Nasreen Riahizadeh
“I was afraid people would not actually believe what I was saying because I’m only 11,” she said. “But there are people who are experiencing hate and inequality every day. There’s people all around you whose lives are changing because of this, and it’s an issue that we need to bring up, and one that matters.”
Riahizadeh is prepared for critics, too. But she says that Kiera always has been driven, and it’s her job as her mother to help her reach her goals. Kiera decided when she was 8 years old that she wanted to be a surgeon, and already has picked out which medical school she will attend.
“I’m following her lead, and some people do criticize me for that, but she wants to make the world a better place,” Riahizadeh said. “I want her spark to stay alive, and she is right when she says she is the next generation. She wants there to be equality. I want that for her generation, too.”
Kiera’s dad, Bill Kaiser, was apprehensive about her ambitions at first, but says her passion is admirable.
“It’s such an adult topic. My initial response was pause. But in my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like this, so politically charged on both sides,” he said.
“I firmly believe in the things she says. Whatever your political belief, it’s not cool to discriminate against anybody, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, Libertarian.”
Kiera chimes in: “Don’t forget the Green Party.”