During heated protest, a white LAPD officer offered peace, took a knee and protesters cheered

Commander Cory Palka marches through hundreds of protestors on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, as they form around him in a circle. On his uniform, there's a sticker with a peace sign drawn in black marker. As he begins to speak, the leader of the protest hands him a megaphone. The crowd falls silent and he addresses them: "We do not want enemies. We do not want to go against you. I will acknowledge the tragedies that have occurred throughout this country regarding racism and the police. I'm trying to express my heartfelt pain that you feel. Please listen to my heart. We do not want to come in here and be aggressive and firm," he says. "We want you to peacefully protest."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

As he looks into a crowd united by anger, Officer Palka explains that he doesn't want to invoke fear, throw tear gas or shoot rubber bullets. He claims he reads all the protest signs and feels the pain that everyone is feeling right now. Many protesters have been peaceful, but there have been tense confrontations with police over the past six days, and according to the LA Times, resulting in 700 arrests.

"We want to allow you to engage in your first amendment rights. We owe that to you. I want to give that to you. At the same time, I don't want a rock thrown at my head. I don't want to put a baton to any of you. I do not want any of you hurt. I want you to be upset, frustrated, voice your frustrations and express your heart and express the pain you feel for George Floyd."

He begs the protestors to collaborate with him. "Let's do it together. Let us protect you. I see beautiful children in front of me. We need to show these kids we can go through our pain together. As a team, we can do it together. I want you to continue doing what you are doing. I want you to express your freedom. I've been doing this for 34 years and I have great relationships with all races and all sexes. Let's celebrate your frustration, let's be angry and upset. It's not our intent to shoot and it's not our intent to harm you."

Officer Palka's eyes dart from building to building. He pauses, reflecting on the beautiful city around him, begging others not to destroy it. He encourages people not to loot, but rather come together and protest in peace. He holds up his helmet. "If I take a knee with you guys, will you give me your verbal acknowledgement that this is a peaceful rally?" he asks the protestors.

Everyone cheered "Take a knee, take a knee."


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He put one knee to the ground, bowing his head. Some protestors reached out to shake his hand. The first one was black. "We stand in this together," Officer Cory says, holding up the megaphone with his right hand as the crowd cheers louder.

Photo by Danielle Bacher

Veteran Nathaniel Johnson, a protester in full military armor, a gas mask wrapped around his neck and bullet proof vest, stands with a sign that reads: "I swore to protect Americans + Freedom. Not harm them. Vets 4 #BLM." He's been protesting for a few days but this was the first time he went out with his uniform. He wanted to send a loud message. "Before I came out as just a person in normal clothes. I tried to talk to the police, human being to human being and they looked through me. They didn't see me. Now that I'm in uniform, they have no choice but to look at me," he says. "I'm a solider. I'm not part of the looting, I don't condone that. But I'm on the opposing side. I'm here to speak for you guys, for all of us."

Veteran Johnson claims that on Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles, he was peacefully protesting with his girlfriend and a few friends. While their hands were in the air, he claims the police officers tear gassed and shot rubber rounds at them, severely injuring his girlfriend, who is now having surgery in the hospital. A swat team even tried to run them over with an armored vehicle. He heard one officer say, "Get him," as he started shooting Johnson with a shotgun. Quickly, Johnson retaliated, throwing a smoke grenade to get out of harm's way.

"It's disgusting what happened," Johnson continued. "I'm very skeptical of the message [Cory's] sending. Listen, the last messages they have been sending me is they don't care. My dad is black and my mom is white. I'm a bi-product of America. I've been discriminated against as an African American. I know what the police do. I get it. I'm not going to agitate the police, but when they start shooting people, I'm out here saving lives with my trauma kits. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept in three days. But I'm here."

As the protests continued, Devion Coleman, a young black man, found inspiration in Officer Palka taking a knee. "There are going to be people who dislike it, but you can't please everybody. He made an effort," he says. "As long as there is police violence and as long as there is injustice, inequality and racism, you can protest it peacefully. I think it's absolutely necessary. This was a very peaceful and very good day. I think it showed solidarity. They are listening and giving us some time of peace and I think it's really good. Now it's about reform and real justice."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

Around curfew time, protestors chanted three words that George Floyd said before he died: "I can't breathe." They marched away, their posters clenched in their hands, as the sun set. Actor and writer Brahmanleen Collins holds the sign "We Matter" while thanking another black police officer for his service. "I captured the moment. I was thanking him for his service and feeling in my heart that we would never see him in a video like the one we are protesting. That goes for all the officers out here. They matter too."

Robert Hayes, who filmed Collins thanking the officer, says that he's always been a person of action and thinks there's more to be done. "I'm grateful for people who are standing up for the black people, the people of color, standing up for me," he says. He's also glad people are using their platform and voice to speak out against racism and bigotry.

"As for the looting and riots going on, I've never been a promotor of violence but I am a promotor of justice," he says. "I want equality for my people and I want equality for all. We aren't out here seeking revenge. The nation should be thankful we aren't seeking revenge for the past 400 years of hate toward my people, toward black people. We are seeking equality."

Photo by Danielle Bacher

He believes, right now, all emotions are valid, but channeling them in a positive way would likely ignite change. "I have never been a promoter of wreaking havoc, that's what's been going on, but I will not invalidate the way people choose to express their emotion. It's been going on far too long," he continued.

"But being more positive will allow us to reap benefits short and long term. We are hurt and we are in pain. I think we need to strategize and mobilize accordingly, so that we won't tear down the communities we love and live in and that we are building for our children and our grandchildren."

Hayes pauses a moment, slowly pulling down his mask, sharing the times he felt fearful or discriminated against. He looks up, a smile on his face and continues, "But, you know, I think that officer taking a knee is exactly what we need."


Photo by Danielle Bacher

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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