Black Lives Matter and how we can create change

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Maddy Truka

Walking down Baxter Road towards Parkway West Middle School, members of the St. Louis community take part in the Parkway Black Lives Matter walk. Participants kneeled at the end of the walk for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd and all those lost to racism and hate. “It was a wake up call. It was really reassuring to see the outcome and how many people came out to support the cause,” sophomore Lauren McLeod said. “I think that it brought attention to a lot of the racial injustice that often gets swept under the rug, and overall, I think it was one of the beginning steps to a long journey of getting racial equity in schools.”

As the news and social media booms with awareness and activism towards the Black Lives Matter movement, communities across the country are taking steps to support the ongoing fight against racism. 

“I would like for teachers to put their pride and beliefs aside and treat me as equal to my peers,” junior Yannell Howard said. “Investing time to be more educated on equity and learning deeper about the Black Lives Matter movement is really what I would love to see from all students and staff.”

Howard and her peers long for more awareness from students and staff about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Advocacy can be made in many ways such as fundraising for Black organizations and projects. Just educating people on what it is and means to be a Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in America,” sophomore Lauren McLeod said. “I would like to see the staff not only advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement but also educating themselves beyond that and learning more so that they can help their students and become a better ally.”

Senior Bri Davis wants everyone, regardless of race or gender, to advocate for equality. 

“It seems as if the only people who are trying to spread awareness are the minorities at our school and some teachers who do really care,” Davis said. “We should be talking about things like Black history and Black success all throughout the school year, not just in history class and not just in February.”

Students feel the Parkway Black Lives Matter walk that took place June 14 was a good first step to raise more awareness within the community.

“To see people of all ages, races, religions, sexuality and incomes come together the way they did with the speeches, chants and demonstrations truly made me realize that our community is near impossible to stop if we all work together as one. Together we are stronger than any individual,” senior Tavin Reed said. 

For junior Tre Bell, awareness of racial injustices not only means being educated on them, but also taking action towards realizing change.  

I would like to see people be more educated on the problem and not use it to make jokes out of it. If they are already educated on the situation and see something wrong happening at school, they should step in and help. It shows that they care. It will take all of us to help the situation, not just one individual or group.”

— Tre Bell

“I would like to see people be more educated on the problem and not use it to make jokes out of it,” Bell said. “If they are already educated on the situation and see something wrong happening at school, they should step in and help. It shows that they care. It will take all of us to help the situation, not just one individual or group.”

In order to be proactive towards the racial inequalities occurring in our world, Davis urges educators to take steps to empower an anti-racist environment.

“Teachers can share small information about things going on in the world. I know that if the whole class isn’t engaged, there are still some students who are, even if the teacher doesn’t see it,” Davis said. “I also think having guest speakers coming to talk about things like this would cause a huge impact as well. People who have a strong background and are professionals can leave just a small amount of information with students that they will never forget.”

Likewise, Reed believes Common Ground meetings are an opportune time to keep students aware of current events. 

“Common Ground teachers could show a video or slideshow showing how unarmed Black men are killed, how a lot of Black people are racially profiled and how situations are handled with a Black versus a White suspect,” Reed said. “I think things like that would do a good job of raising awareness about racism and racial injustice.” 

Social media has been the most common way students acknowledge and encourage the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Though my peers have shown their support, once everything simmers down on national television and the news takes less time to cover racial injustices occurring in the world, what will happen? The problem will again become smaller than it actually is,” Bell said. 

With building momentum from nationwide protests against incidents of police brutality and racially motivated violence, Reed feels the African American community at West is growing stronger. 

“I feel that as Black people we are often prejudged based on what one person does or says. With that being said, I believe that we must always be ourselves. We should always strive to be better whether that’s in the classroom, in the hallway, on social media or in involvement in the school,” Reed said. 

Nevertheless, discrimination still exists amongst our community. 

“Racism in this district is very overt and needs to be stopped by the administrators down to every student who acts or speaks in a racist manner. Teachers should lead by example in a positive light. Everyone needs to love rather than hate a person based on their race,” Howard said. “I want support towards Black people for the injustices they experience on a regular daily basis.” 

For example, racist images, videos and remarks coming from students have recently been circulating throughout the district. 

“Racist actions should come with a consequence whether a remark was said years ago or not. I know that all remarks won’t be heard or seen, but the ones that are must come with a consequence to set an example that racism isn’t okay,” Reed said.

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, McLeod feels it is important to not only address racism against African Americans but all forms of prejudice and exclusion. 

School should be a place where people feel safe regardless of their identity. I think that a lot of the racism that is going on is because of lack of education, but if we expand our education and stop whitewashing it and begin learning about BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community and current topics that are happening, then students will not only be more diverse with their education but overall as a person. Diversity is not just Black and White, it’s all races and all identities, and our school is lacking in it. ”

— Lauren McLeod

“A big theme I would like to bring into our school is being intersectional and not only advocating for Black students but advocating for all students. School should be a place where people feel safe regardless of their identity. I think that a lot of the racism that is going on is because of lack of education, but if we expand our education and stop whitewashing it and begin learning about BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community and current topics that are happening, then students will not only be more diverse with their education but overall as a person,” McLeod said. “Diversity is not just Black and White, it’s all races and all identities, and our school is lacking in it. That’s why the three big words that I want to take into this school year are intersectionality, diversity and education.”

As the world is shifting in hopes of making change, Davis would like to see our school community continue to fight against racism. 

“This movement is more than just a run from the high school to the middle school. This movement is something that is going to last forever and ever as it has for many decades with slavery and the unjust system,” Davis said. “But I truly think this is something that the West should really think about moving forward. These are things that need to keep happening, even when we aren’t in times of distress. Racial injustices, racism, minorities, oppression, these are all things that are a constant in our world, even in school, and must be constantly looked at all the time, not just once or not just because everyone else is doing it.”