Playa del Rey Elementary student’s “Strike Song” became her teachers’ anthem

By Gary Walker

Aryana Fields performed “Strike Song” for local teachers and massive crowds at Grand Park
Photos by Chryssa Elliott

Political movements often give rise to breakout personalities and inspirational moments.

If the artful posters and billboards depicting Roxana Dueñas turned the Boyle Heights teacher into the face of the LAUSD teachers’ strike, then it was Playa del Rey Elementary School fifth grader Aryana Fields who provided its voice.

The 10-year-old Westchester girl became a celebrity among teachers and their supporters with “Strike Song,” a reworked version of Rachel Platten’s chart-topping inspirational anthem “Fight Song” played to the same melody on acoustic guitar. Aryana’s chorus:

This is our strike song
Our education
Prove them we’re right song
Our power’s turned on
Starting right now we’ll be strong
We’ll sing this strike song
And it’s so critical that everybody else believes
‘Cause I know this is exactly what I need.

Playa del Rey Elementary School teacher Chryssa Elliott said she discussed the strike with her students the week before it began so they would know why their teachers weren’t at school. Aryana approached Elliott about what she could do to help, and the two decided on a song. “Fight Song,” Elliott said, “just kind of popped in my head one night when we were talking about what we could do.”

Aryana publicly debuted “Strike Song” at Venice High School on Jan. 17, when she accompanied her teachers to a rally at the high school. Next up was a UTLA rally on Jan. 18 in front of tens of thousands of strikers and their supporters at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.

Asked if she was nervous about singing for so many people, Aryana said shyly, “Not really. Honestly, I think I was just trying to focus on the song. All I saw were colors.”

While later verses of “Strike Song” make reference to picketing and contract negotiations, the song opens as one student’s appeal for supporting her teachers: “I’m just a small voice / now in motion / sending big love / like an ocean / Watch how a single kid / can make a mind open / I may only have one voice / but I can make an explosion / And everything that’s done for me / by my teachers daily/ I will scream them out today / Will you listen to what I say?”

Aryana’s dad, Heath Fields, says his daughter’s musical activism did not come as a surprise to him when Aryana told him how she planned to help her teachers.

“That’s her heart. She’s always been the type of person who thinks about putting others first. That’s just the type of kid that she is,” he said.

UTLA organizers were captivated by “Strike Song” and made it their anthem, sharing with members and supporters a YouTube video of Aryana performing the song.

“Aryana is a reminder of why we do what we do. All over the city thousands of students and parents have expressed support in different ways. Aryana shows us how important it is for us to have arts in our schools, and we encourage Aryana to continue her activism through music long into her educational career. Every struggle has a soundtrack, and Aryana’s inspirational song is part of ours,” wrote UTLA Elementary Vice President Gloria Martinez.

Micah Joseph Bradley Byers, the music teacher at University High School in West Los Angeles, has offered to record Aryana’s song. She’s also been tapped to perform later this year at her school’s 5th-grade graduation, where she plans to sing “Rivers and Roads” by indie folk band The Head and the Heart.

“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a little more nerve-wracking with less people watching,” Aryana said.

“As a school community, we’re so proud of her,” Elliott added. “She’s inspired teachers as well as other students.”

The strike may be over, but it appears “Strike Song” has struck a resonant and lasting cord.

gary@argonautnews.com

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