On Sunday, July 7th, Jayla Hemphill delivered the following address:
Good morning, my name is Jayla and I’ll be a senior at Northfield High School this coming school year. First and foremost, I see/I’m sure that I share the feeling of gratitude with many people in the room for the diverse group of people here today, all under one cause. Thank you all for being here, and more importantly, writing history with your black peers and myself.
I haven’t commented much on the recent events in the United States, I didn’t have the words until today, at 3 in the morning to be exact. I want you all to know and understand that #BlackLivesMatter does not begin nor does it end with George Floyd. As we attempt to form alliances, understand that this is a process that must continue after Derek Chauvin is convicted of second degree murder. It does not begin or end with #BlackOutTuesday, because this is beyond social expectation, this is a moral obligation.
I encourage you all to march, sign petitions, and donate if you are able, though I’m sure you’ve heard that many times recently, so I’d like to make this clear: black lives can not only matter when a black man is brutally deprived of his, or when the movement is trending on social media. Black lives matter in the classroom when your black peers speak, they matter in politics when your black candidates campaign, they matter when microaggressions are imposed on those around us, but go unaddressed, and they matter especially when black culture is reduced to being socially unacceptable, or “ghetto.”
And so, when you chant “No justice, no peace,” remember that justice is not only practiced through court, and remember that George Floyd was murdered in cold blood, while three of his co-workers stood idly by, and were so quick to accept it. Simply being a bystander can be a horrific thing, can’t it? I assure you all that microaggressions and social ostracization occurs every single day in forms that we may not recognize, it’s a form of ignorance that exists in all of us. I only have a few minutes up here, but that’s enough for me if the audience can learn to question it all; why are all of the black children sitting in the back? Is it “ghetto” or is it the formation of a culture that was taken away? Was a check worth George Floyd’s life? And lastly, how can I ensure that black lives matter in every part of government, every classroom, and every walk of life?
More than 80% of teachers in Denver Public Schools are white, but a white teacher cannot teach me about my history, a white teacher cannot teach me about the color of my skin. We need more teachers of color, we need non-white students to attend college, because most of DPS isn’t white. It is the right of every student, especially black students, to have teachers that look like them.
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