Teachers Doug and Catherine Gilbert of Solana Beach brought signs — and their kids London, 11, Lila, 6, and Sol, 4. Photo by Ken Stone
Teachers Doug and Catherine Gilbert of Solana Beach with signs and kids: London 11, Lila 6 and Sol 4. Photo by Ken Stone

Kevin Beiser acknowledged what brought hundreds of parents, teachers and students Wednesday evening to a dusty ball field in Old Town — the fear of “what it would be like in Nazi Germany.”

District music director Russ Sperling introduces his San Diego Youth Pride band. Photo by Ken Stone

But school board member Beiser promised the San Diego Unified School District would “push back” against enablers of hate.

He didn’t utter “Donald Trump” or note his campaign’s divisive reputation. Instead he declared from a stage: “I will not be silent.”

Neither were others at a hastily arranged “Celebration of Light” at the Ballard Parent Center — where representatives of nearly two dozen groups such as the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League and the Mexican Consulate answered questions at booths while children waved free flashlights and made paper snowflakes.

“We want to stress light tonight — not darkness,” school trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne told the crowd between music acts and an anti-bullying skit. “We represent diverse communities, countries from all over the world.”

A little before 5 p.m., Muslim parents were informed that separate male and female prayer rooms were available inside.

Trustee Michael McQuary talked about patriotic feelings and a “tradition that we welcome new neighbors.”

Maya Salameh of San Diego High School reads from her poem “genome of a generation in healing.” Photo by Ken Stone

“We are standing up for our rights, freedom of speech,” he said at the event organized in only two weeks by the district’s Family and Community Engagement Department partnering with the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs.

“Our basic rights,” McQuary said.

Gary Edmonds, a 56-year-old social studies teacher at Garfield High School, said he came to learn what he could to relieve anxieties of his students and their families, some of them undocumented.

“It’s like we’re going into something we’ve never been in,” said Edmonds, who has taught in San Diego schools for 20 years.

A media advisory had said the event would “provide resources and support to families who may feel vulnerable as a result of the country’s current civil climate.”

After watching her Lemon Grove-based Ballet Folklorico en Aztlan perform, Viviana Enrique Acosta took a microphone and said: “We are here to lift the heart of humanity.”

Maya Salameh of San Diego High School, a 16-year-old junior, read a poem titled “genome of a generation in healing.” She’s an Arab-American and member of the prestigious National Student Poets Program.

A snippet:

me reuniré
je me reunirai
i will reunite in all of my languages
in every code coddled under my control
for leaving is a lost liberty and
learning is love lyricized, liberated and above all loyal

Trustee Richard Barrera noted a 950-word school board resolution approved last week “reaffirming values of peace, tolerance and respect for multiple perspectives.”

Dec. 6, 2016, San Diego Unified School District board resolution on tolerance. (PDF)

It said in part: “We call on President-Elect Trump to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to clearly articulate the rights of all students to attend school without the fear of detention and deportation.”

Schools Superintendent Cindy Marten called on the crowd to move toward the stage “because nothing says ‘community’ more than being able to gather close — kind of like a camping trip.”

She said: “We want every single student to know when they walk into our campuses they’re walking into a safe, warm and welcoming environment with school staff …. all 17,000 employees looking into the eyes of our young people and saying: ‘We cherish you. We believe in you.’”

Marten introduced Russ Sperling, the district’s director of visual and performing arts, and what she called his one-in-the-nation Youth Pride Band — gay high school and college musicians formed in 2015 to march in the San Diego Pride Parade.

The ensemble belted out Lady Gaga’s “(Baby I Was) Born This Way.”