• Cypress Bay High School - Weston, FL
  • November 30, 2020
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BY GOWRI ABHINANDA

Web Features Editor

The death of George Floyd incited a national movement for racial justice across the country, after several Black individuals like George Floyd were murdered by police officers. On June 12, the city of Weston also joined the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with a march led by youth organizers from the Bay. BLM Weston organizer and senior Anya Jackson said this call to action was vital, as violence against Black lives are being perpetuated by institutions such as the police that are supposed to uphold safety for all members of the community.

“Nationally, there has been an ongoing movement that speaks on the inner workings of racism and police brutality in our nation, [and] the BLM movement has sparked conversations about systemic racism,” Jackson said. “In Weston, there have been multiple events that have occurred that sparked that much-needed conversation to happen here as well, which is why the Weston march took place in solidarity with the countless other happening[s] nation-wide.”

Jackson said the BLM movement is important to her because it is a way for her to make her voice heard and also advocate for the Black community. She said she is grateful for this movement, as she feels it is the starting point for change.

“I was so eager to make sure that my voice, along with [other Black students were] heard and I wanted to express how I felt about everything happening,” Jackson said. “The complacency from this nation felt so wrong in so many ways, and I wanted to gather many like-minded people to make sure our voices were heard.”

Senior Melanie Rojas has also been involved in the BLM movement but as an ally. Rojas said that regardless of race, everyone should take part in this national outcry for change because it is the moral obligation of all individuals to advocate against injustice.

“Regardless of who we are, our nation needs to show inclusion to our Black community,” Rojas said. “We all deserve to feel comfortable, to be heard and loved, so as an ally, I was glad to take part in this movement by using my privilege to be at several [BLM] protests.”

Rojas said although many allies are coming together to show solidarity for the Black community, there have been many instances of “allies” utilizing the movement to further their public image, as seen with celebrity Madison Beer, who ended up using the BLM movement as a photo opportunity. Rojas said these types of self-serving actions, called performative activism,
are not what allies should engage in.

“As a white individual, I know I have this privilege from the color of my skin. And with that, I should use it to defend the Black community as much as I can, but this by no means suggests that we should be speaking for them,” Rojas said. “This movement is to amplify Black voices so they can be heard because they’ve been oppressed for so long, so allies should not overpower [Black voices] by having performative allies take over.”

According to the New Republic, in addition to performative activism, fear that the BLM movement implicates a violent uprising against other races has created more resistance. However, Rojas said the movement is not a threat to society and instead should be embraced.

“[BLM] isn’t about a superior race, or a violent uprising, especially since it was found that 93% of them were peaceful; this movement is about being equal,” Rojas said. “I wish allies would understand that it’s not a competition, we should use our privilege to speak out and listen to the Black community to attain true human rights in this country; I’m just sorry we haven’t gotten there yet as a collective.”

Like Rojas, AICE English Language Arts teacher Shawntee Herring said she believes silence regarding systemic racism is extremely detrimental to society. She said to remedy this harmful dialogue, accountability should be embraced within the general public.

“Being silent about any form of injustice allows the problem to grow and fester within a society and the idea that, ‘If it does not affect me, then I don’t need to be concerned’ creates an apathy that has plagued this country for far too long,” Herring said. “Let’s say that I knew my employers were engaged in illegal activity involving children, but I said nothing because it did not affect any of my students; wouldn’t I be just as guilty? Some people think that admitting there is a problem is the same as admitting they were complicit in its motive and that just isn’t the case here.”

Herring said as an educator, she aims to do her part in preventing the injustices that take place in society. She said she always tries to instill values of being vocal about important issues to avoid falling into that cycle of apathy.

“As an educator, I not only teach but encourage my students to participate and speak up, that their voices matter; I have seen young people doing that, especially since MSD, but I’m disturbed by the response of some adults,” Herring said. “There are people who have bullied, intimidated and threatened these young people for the very thing we tell them to do, to use their voices for change.”

Herring said with her involvement thus far in the movement, she has noticed many misconstrued messages being spread regarding its image. She said these individuals need to look into themselves and broaden their perspectives on an issue she feels they are mishandling.

“There are people who take issue with BLM because of some misguided belief that everyone in the movement wants to employ Marxism in this country, when really the people are just tired of asking for people of color to be seen as human beings whose lives are valued,” Herring said. “However, some of these same people do not accept criticism for the messages of
fascism from the country’s leadership, yet believe in the Constitution that says all men are created equal; it seems like a huge double standard.”

Jackson said following the local and national BLM movements, the Bay adopted an African American History Honors class. She said the inclusion of this class is important to uplift Black voices, which she feels will aid in the mistaken notions Herring touched upon.

“This class gives others who wanted to gain more information on the topic a space to learn history through an Afrocentric lens, and it’s something that should’ve been at [the Bay] and finally is,” Jackson said. “The African American History class is there to educate others, and it was something that should’ve been on my course selection card when I was entering my
freshman year, but I’m glad this movement brought it because it’s long overdue.”

Herring said she is determined the BLM movement will bolster much-needed change within the country to address systemic racism. She said she looks forward to a more hopeful future.

“I hope people no longer have to protest for basic human rights,” Herring said. “I hope that people see that this younger generation is disconnected from our tainted past and that they want our systems, policies and laws to reflect the same.”

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