RCSD students to observe Black Lives Matter at School Day

Rochester, N.Y. - It's a day for open conversations about race, racism and embracing racial equality.

The Rochester City School District will observe Black Lives Matter at School Day.

When you walk the halls of Wilson Foundation Academy on Genesee Street, you’ll see images of African-American heroes, icons and civil rights movements.

Decorations include tributes to Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, and the story of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African America teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida.

"The whole purpose is to open a dialogue on discussing race and discussing why black lives matter at the school level," said LoWan Brown, the assistant principal of Wilson Academy.

On Friday, some teachers will discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means for students.

"There's a lot of violence going on right now, so it's good to learn what's going on so you can be informed," Skye Harris said.

Eighth grade English teacher Kevin Morrissey said he plans to use videos and African American literature, such as the poem “Average Black Woman” by Ernestine Johnson.

"Things that they usually don't talk about,” he said. “Things that you say behind closed doors. Things that they don't think are acceptable - especially me, being a white male, they won't typically want to talk to me about.”

Critics worry the Black Lives Matter day means other lives don't matter, and refers to violence against police.

Brown said that’s not true. It's about understanding black lives.

"A student came up with this phrase that if you have a broken bone, you're going to take care of mending that bone. And right now in our society, the broken bone is the racism that exists in regards to black people."

"I had one boy out in the country, one time, tell me some guy attacked him and his dad with a shotgun because they were at a gas station getting gas," Morrissey said.

Participation in the Black Lives Matter at School Day is voluntary.

Parents, teachers and students organized it and garnered the support of the teachers’ union and school board superintendent.

They say it continues a conversation that the World of Inquiry soccer team started when they took a knee last fall during the national anthem.

"Every day, my kids see children who look different than them,” said Mahreen Mustafa-George, who has two children at World of Inquiry and is a co-organizer of the event. “They know that there are issues in society that their friends are facing. We shouldn't be afraid to talk about those issues."

Students plan to peacefully protest at Wilson Academy Friday morning.

"This is one day,” said Alicia Oddo, a 7th grade English teacher at Wilson Academy. “I don't think we should shy away from talking about these issues throughout the school year. I hope that people will not be afraid and kind of make the leap because it can really break down barriers."

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