For the first time in America, Montpelier High School in Vermont becomes the first school in the nation to raise the Black Lives Matter flag, and it is doing so at the start of Black History Month, according to NBC 5.
African-American students, who make up less than 5 percent of the population at the school, took turns raising the flag during a ceremony that students, staff, and community members attended despite the backlash.
"People choose their flags because they want to represented and they want to be seen," student Joelyn Mensah said. "We students do not feel like we are represented or seen in our education and we are here to raise the flag because we want to be seen and we will demand to be represented in our education."
As stated on its website, part of Black Lives Matter's mission is to work in communities all over the world "where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise."
"We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression," the website states.
Mensah founded the Racial Justice Alliance student group and worked diligently to bring the idea of raising the flag at Montpelier High School to the school board. The school board's vote to approve the idea was unanimous.
I, members of my Judiciary Committee, legislators, community members, leaders, law enforcement came out to stand with & support the #Montpelier High School— Maxine Grad (@RepMaxineGrad) February 1, 2018
Racial Justice Alliance as they raised the #BlackLivesMatter flag in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth#VT #vtpoli pic.twitter.com/ZQ5oTIkfkY
Mensah and other students at the school are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction toward equality in education. An achievement gap exists between black and white students, even in diverse schools. Just recently, a white student confirmed an account that a professor at LaDelta Community College in Louisiana told white students not to share highlighted exam notes with "the blacks or [anyone] associated with the blacks."
So, the truth is hard to deny, yet important figures like Republican state legislator Thomas Terenzini, do not agree. Terenzini said the school is setting "a bad example" by flying the flag, according to Fox News.
"I don't see myself as being a bigot or prejudiced, but I just don't think that Black Lives Matter is a national organization to look up [to]," Terenzini said.
That way of thinking is the reason why black students feel that they still have to fight for equal education long after schools were desegregated during the Brown v. Board of Education case.
"In a lot of ways, our education has been robbed from us," Hazen Union High School senior Zymora Davinchi said. "We don't have equal access to education. We don't have equal resources because we don't grow up learning anything about ourselves."
The flag will continue to fly because it is part of upcoming events that will call attention to racism and bring awareness to providing black students with an equal education.
"We are committed to improvement and this dialogue and to work for equity and racial justice in our school system," Principal Mike McRaith said. "We can and we must improve our educational system to be more culturally competent and ever more inclusive to the historically marginalized and oppressed."
Black students are more likely to get arrested and experience punitive disciplinary measures, such as detention, suspension, and expulsion, compared to their white counterparts. Black students are met with teachers who cannot relate to their day-to-day struggles inside and outside of the classrooms instead of being exposed to restorative justice techniques to bring out the best in them. Something has to change to make this right, even if it means raising a flag to bring awareness to racial inequalities.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/David Ryder