Dozens of students at Dartmouth’s Prince Andrew High School walked out of class on Monday to protest racist behaviour in the halls and a lack of curriculum on Black history and culture.
The “Black Minds Matter” walkout was staged two weeks after a white student distributed content on Snapchat containing explicit and racist language, including the N-word. That individual was suspended, according to the school’s principal.
Yet Grade 12 student Keasiah Sparks, a co-organizer of the walkout, say racism at Prince Andrew High School goes beyond a single social media post.
“Constant use of the N-word, many microaggressions like ‘Can I touch your hair?’ or ‘Is that a weave?’ That’s a lot of the things that happen and it’s not just from the students, it’s from the teachers itself.”
“It’s like little things and they don’t think we catch onto it,” added Essence Simmonds, another co-organizer in Grade 12. “But I have six other siblings that have to come here and I don’t want my siblings to go through the same thing that I went through, throughout my 13 years.”
The students — all wearing face masks — read poems, sang, waved signs and called out to honking cars passing by: “In order to learn, first you must be heard,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
They demanded “more action instead of words” when it comes to disciplining students and staff who engage in racist behaviour, and a commitment to an expanded curriculum on Black culture and history.
“We want a cohort for the Black students to learn more about our culture, our background, because we feel that’s not taught or expressed in the school,” said Grade 11 student Latanajah Brooks. “We have only one month for Black history month and we barely get to learn about it.”
“Black people in PA (Prince Andrew) don’t really feel comfortable because of other people’s actions, so we feel like we can’t really learn in our own community,” added Grade 11 student Airedin Greencorn.
If white students want to help, organizers explained, they can call out racist behaviour when they see it and educate their peers.
The walkout was supervised by supportive Prince Andrew staff members, including principal Brad McGowan. He said he’s committed to an equitable, safe, racism-free learning environment and Black students “are going to see change right away” at the school.
The students, he added, have formed a committee that will meet with him every two weeks with their observations and suggestions.
“What I told them is, ‘If there’s things I’m not seeing, I want to see them through your eyes,’ so we’re going to be having these regular meetings, I’m going to be reporting back to them,” he told Global News. “I look forward to this powerful partnership.”