by Sophie Hauck, Cochair, Marblehead High School Democrats
Walking down Lafayette Street on Tuesday, June 2, amidst a crowd of people holding signs, leading chants, and marching forward with purpose, this moment felt familiar. Although I had never joined a social justice movement alongside Marbleheaders of every age, race, and religion, at the high school, we’ve already had one public conversation on race in the past few years.
On Thursday, December 7, 2017, three members of the Marblehead High School Class of 2018 organized a school walkout in response to one student calling another peer the n-word. Although the school suspended the student who used this slur, administrators released no immediate educational material on racism after the event, so the organizers decided to create their own hands-on curriculum: a 12 p.m. walkout to hear students of color speak on their experiences growing up in a predominantly white school district. My peers and I packed together in the MHS parking lot to hear their message, and in the middle of this crowd, I scrawled notes in my journal, feeling empowered to record the social justice story before my eyes.
Two years later, I grabbed this same notebook as I left my house for the June 2 event, and holding a tangible connection between the protests of then and now, I realize how similar these discussions have become. Occurring at MHS and Saint Stephens Methodist Church respectively, right across the street from one another, both the 2017 and 2020 protests came in response to symptoms of systemic racial injustice. In turn, the 2017 speakers advocated for systematic action, but in the two school years to follow this walkout, there have been no major curriculum changes to address race and racism in our classrooms. In contrast, the 2020 team inspired internal improvements among listeners, Reverend Doctor Andre Bennett asking his audience to become active allies to the black community. Whether or not Marblehead embraces this challenge, our racial justice movement should no longer be a trend that we return to every few years.
My friends and I still reflect on the 2017 walkout as though these events came from a movie about high school rather than our real lives. Perhaps it was the suspense leading up to the protest that encouraged these surreal memories, but we also agree that our disbelief stems from our expectations of racial education in Marblehead. It feels as though the best conversations that we’ve shared on race have all occurred outside of school, whether during that walkout in 2017, when the Black Lives Matter movement gained popularity in the summer of 2014, or now, as we leave school during a pandemic only to come together and protest.
I am not sure why, historically, conversations on race and the classroom have felt mutually exclusive, but I suspect that the Class of 2021 will erase this convention during our senior year. From freshman year, we walked out of school together against racism and gathered to remember gun violence victims, and now, during junior year, we’ve walked out of school again to fight climate change and marched with the town of Marblehead to support the black community. Marblehead High School’s Class of 2021 not only cares about justice, but we fight for it. I am excited to serve as the Headlight Editor-in-Chief for the 2020-21 school year because I believe in this fight for change, and I know that, at MHS, progress occurs everyday. Our school news is community news, so I look forward to supporting connections between MHS and the town of Marblehead.