WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Hundreds of families, educators, and students kicked off Juneteenth with a march from Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. to the U.S. Dept. of Education to demand justice for Black students and to end disparities in education.
The Black Students Matter rally highlighted the systemic issues impacting the Black community and Black students across the D.C. area.
7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell read an emotional plea for change as part of the students' rally:
"'There's no way you did all your work that fast.' 'I wouldn't believe you by looking at you that you were that smart or my favorite.' 'He's not your average Black boy.' I heard all of those things from my teachers before I was in kindergarten. Please don't call me your average Black boy. We are extraordinary, and the ground shakers that this world needs to build a better future."
Organizers of the rally, Educators for Equity, are calling for five demands centered around equity and education.
- Defund DC police by redirecting money to programs and resources that focus on mental health
- Equitable district funding
- Revised curriculum reflective of African American students
- Abolish for-profit standardized testing
- Focus on fixing schools rather than shutting them down
“We have five demands, but everything is going around equity and education right now as a nation, our public-school education system actively disadvantaged students of color,” D.C. teacher Rosie Teverow said. “We're trying to get to a place where everybody has a chance for a positive, happy, educational experience where they can learn about themselves, they can learn about people who look like them and it's not just a whitewashed version of our country.”
At the rally it wasn’t just the teachers who were making demands to educational leaders, students were also listing demands they would like to see from their own educators.
“Black students don’t want to be bullied. Black students don’t want to be alone. Black students don’t want to feel like white students won’t want to learn with them. Black students don’t want to feel segregated,” 10-year-old Gracie Lathern told the rally.
“They need happiness, they need love, they need joy, that they want to persevere, they want everything that a child would want and they want to be seen as just an innocent child that they want the opportunity the same as anyone,” Assistant Principal Marion Horton said.