In recent months, it hurt for me to witness the disproportionately negative effect that COVID-19 has had on Black communities, as well as the anti-Black and unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. I was determined to figure out how I could impact change while limited to home during the pandemic crisis. I figured, why not start with helping my former classmates petition Clayton schools, a place I hold near and dear to my heart?
There are things Clayton could work on as far as making minority students feel more comfortable, included, and respected.
There were barriers in a sense, as far as taking harder courses, Honors and AP. When I brought this up to a teacher, my freshman year, she told me that she thought that I would maybe be able to achieve C’s in Honors and AP courses, when, looking back at my grades, I had got all A’s, freshman year. So, why would you assume I would get a C if I just achieved all these A’s in every course?
Now is a time for radical change and to set an example for the rest of the school districts in St. Louis and across the state of Missouri. If you choose to ignore our pleas at this time, just know that we will not give up this fight, we will not back down until all of these changes are made.
I always try to take the initiative and fight injustice where I see it. I’m constantly out here protesting. And until I see significant change in the Black community especially Black treatment in America and not just for black people but for gay people, trans people, for women, Native Americans, indigenous people I’m going to keep fighting. I feel like the point of life is to leave the world better than you inherited it. That’s what I am about.
I’m not here to belittle anyone’s efforts and yelp nonsense about Clayton’s ignorance. But if your community’s beliefs oppress or take other people’s lives, it is your duty to combat that. Go out and change people’s minds, and yes, that means your school, your close friends, and even your extended families. Question everyone’s morals and every system around you. Start small with your community and branch out as far as you can. That is how you can make this protest means something.
A colleague once told Johnson that she was particularly animated in addressing her students and said that as an African-American teacher “that could be overwhelming” for some.
“As I started getting these critiques and observations, I was getting the message that I should behave as a middle-aged white woman.”
I think many of us, and when I say us I mean minority students of color, felt violence, but we had to be silent about what we go through at Clayton. And everyone I talked to at Clayton has experienced some sort of horrible, traumatic story that affected the way that they are and that’s because of the staff there, the faculty, and has to do with the Clayton culture.
To Clayton School District Board members: I want to make sure that everyone will change. Real change. We’ve all seen you talk about a million words like equity, responsive teaching, and all these things are seen, and what happens is, we’re smart. We’re academically trained, right? We went to college to get our Masters and our PhDs. And we become so good at adopting language. What we’re not good at is implementation. I think this is literally a moment in time and this, by the way, this isn’t just about Black Lives Matter (but) how are we going to make our school system, our school district the best it can be?
We are a community in pain. The pain stems from systemic and institutional racism within our schools. There are many of us who would like to believe that we don’t have such an issue in Clayton – but we do. I have the responsibility to all Black and Brown students, staff and families to acknowledge the microaggressions, racism and pain they have experienced. I am truly sorry. What happened was wrong, hurtful and completely unacceptable.
We joined together as neighbors supporting one another in being present at protests for Black Lives this summer, including the two marches held in Clayton both organized by students. We began reflecting on the students’ demands for changes, and a recent alumni petition asking that a racist bullying incident from several years ago be recognized and rectified, and realized that each of us have been involved in equity efforts in the district, but have yet to see the transformational change we need and of which we know our district is capable.