Posted: 21 May 2015 05:24 PM PDT
Obama student and AACAS member Naomi Allen gives a riveting speech on the steps of the Pittsburgh Board of Education building on May 15.
Posted: 21 May 2015 03:43 PM PDT
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Black Lives Matter rally on Friday, May 15th. The rally was held in front of the Board of Education building in Oakland and began at 4:30 pm. There were about 100 students at the rally, the majority from Capa High school, but it was open to the public. The rally was organized by Capa Seniors, Alexis Payne and Alona Williams. The purpose of the rally was to obtain a diverse teaching staff, to implement multi-cultural African American programs, and lastly to give attention to the disparity in suspension rates between black and white students and to create efforts to eliminate them. There are so many issues with our school system but the issues pertaining to race is what is extremely prominent due to the events occurring in our country because of police brutality. School is meant to be a safe environment where we can excel and accomplish goals that will lead us up to our careers. It should never be an environment where such beliefs are replenished rather than dispelled. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This year, I decided to join AACAS which stands for African-American Centers for Advanced Studies. Much to my surprise, I was elected as an executive member of the council which also meant that I would have to attend numerous meetings on Fridays of every month. When Dr. Walters would call us out of class for these meetings, he would always say, "All African- American CAS students please report to the auditorium". I could not help but notice how this simple routine angered so many of the White students at our school. They believed it was unfair for us to get out of class simply because we are black. What was even more bothersome to me, were the similar remarks from the teachers and administration staff.
I have also engaged in conversations pertaining to race, the Black Lives Matter movement, current events, and even what it is like to live every single day of your life in fear. Although one may be capable of sympathizing with us for the life an African- American is condemned to from the moment they are born, you personally cannot truly understand what that very life consists of. This is the reason that the movement was created. If you have heard about The Black Lives Matter Movement or Black Girls Rock, then you probably already know the controversy behind it. Neither of the movements were created to bash any other race and believe me, we fully understand and know that all lives matter and all girls rock. Our issue is that it seems that the government has forgotten that and if we are unable to remind them, then we need to remind the African-American race, who could honestly use uplifting encouragement. Another issue is our curriculum, being that we only learn about the fact that we were slaves or that we organized marches and protested during The Civil Rights Movement. This history that I crave and yearn for my peers to learn should not be an elective and it should not suddenly gain relevance during Black History Month. Why is it that I have not learned about King Taharqa, King of Nubia from 710 to 664 BC who controlled the largest empire in ancient Africa during his 25 year reign or King Shaka, King of Zulus from 1818 to 1828 who developed the "assegai", a short stabbing spear, or Nzingha , Amazon Queen of Matamba, West Africa from 1582 to 1663 who was able to save her people from becoming slaves by negotiating with the Portuguese slave traders? African-American history did not begin with us boarded on ships bounded with chains but this is what is constantly taught in our curriculum. This is what our history books see us as, what they want us to adhere to.
While the rally was taking place, I noticed there were a number of police officers that not only surrounded us by standing on each corner of the street but, multiple undercover cops rode past as well. If the thought of being surrounded by city police officers was not enough, security from the Board of Education building guarded the area where we stood. It was clear that the sole purpose was to not only to intimidate us, but to ridicule our protest completely.
Obama's very own Ashley Brown, who is a Junior, also attended the Black Lives Matter rally on Friday. When asked about her feelings on the police's watchful eyes, she stated, "We were literally watched the entire time. I was like wow, we can't even have a simple and peaceful event without being watched like animals." Although Racism is an issue that has plagued America for centuries, a great deal of people believe that racism was not an issue in the North. When asked if the police's presence was a surprise to her, she immediately shook her head no. "I wasn't surprised by it at all," She continued. "They see us as destructive and chaotic people."
Destinee McCallister, a Junior from Pittsburgh Capa could not express her feelings about the rally, being surrounded by city police officers, and security guards. She decided to keep it short by saying, "I hope they got something from the rally and see this as a learning experience. We're not what the media portrays and what is happening in Ferguson, Florida, Maryland, and everywhere else just isn't right. It wouldn't happen if it were their kid or their brother or father. So why take ours?"
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also attended to write an article about the event and to my surprise, the article was very positive. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the comments underneath. I will not dwell on the comments of even give them the light of day, but ultimately the ignorance displayed underneath the article expressed the need for this rally even the more. During the closing of the rally, Alexis and Alona encouraged us to keep this movement alive and reminded us that despite the fact they are continuing on with their education that does not mean that we simply drop the baton.
"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without its roots."- Marcus Garvey