Kirkwood, can you hear us now?

Dear Kirkwood,


What will it take for black children to be heard? You know the black students who sit quietly in history class because the only time they learn about people that look like them is during the lesson on slavery. Or the black students who don’t have a single teacher who looks like them. Or the black students who felt the way I did on Friday,Sept. 15 after the verdict for officer Jason Stockley declared him not guilty for the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith on December 20, 2011.


No one in the school addressed the things that were and continuing to happen and only a few teachers asked me how I felt. I felt hurt, fear and sadness, but the one thing I didn’t feel was shock, because this has happened before.


But why should I, a black student in KHS, feel that I have no one that I can talk to who will understand how I feel when something like this happens? Why should I, a black student in Kirkwood, feel that talking about something like a black life being taken in class is forbidden and should be left outside of the school because it’s not a “school problem”?


Kirkwood, do you know how it feels to not be able to express how you feel because you may be labeled as just another black girl with an opinion? Or to feel that you always listen to the other side but they never hear you back?


Almost 200 students walked out of school, to make a peaceful standon Monday, Sept. 18. To show their school that they have a voice. That all students matter. People of all different races stood together, marched together for the bigger picture of living in a country the sweeps injustice under the rug, despite getting an unexcused absence.  When my friend Ashya McHaynes called me that Friday afternoon and told me her idea of a walkout, I didn’t even think twice. I jumped right on my Snapchat and Instagram and shared the flyer for the walkout with as many people as I could. The next thing I knew, people were sharing and posting it on their social media. It was the most heartwarming thing I have ever seen. People were messaging me, telling me that they were happy this was happening and that they were willing to walk out and stand for what they believe in.


Aysha and I planned all weekend, talked through all the consequences of the walk out and we talked with our families. But it really hit me when my grandma asked me, “What are you willing to give up for this? Are you prepared for anything that the school might say or do to you? Because if this is something you want to do I want you to know why you are doing it and be ready for the consequences that come behind it.” Honestly, I sat down and thought for myself: What am I willing to give up for to change? Am I ready to lead something like this? What do I want my school to see after this is over?


I didn’t have the answers to all of my questions until Monday morning, when at  7:40 a.m. the senior hallway began to fill with students, waiting to be led out to the football field. And we chanted the whole way.


“No justice! No peace!”


“Black Lives Matter!”


“Stand Together!”


We chanted all the way to the bleachers, and I saw how many students cared as much as I did. I heard how many of our students wanted to fight for a cause bigger than all of us. It still brings tears to my eyes to think that me, just average black girl with passion in my heart helped lead something so amazing. Not for the coverage, not to cause trouble or to skip class, but to be heard and make change in our school for all the students that will come after us.


But the momentum will not end here. Now the ball is in your court. We know the walkout was just the beginning of something bigger, and we are not stopping here. We have been silent way too long in our school, and it’s time we use the voices we were given.What will you do to make change, because silence is no longer an option.  Kirkwood, can you hear us now?